250 attend cancelled Anzac service
PURPLE salvia took the place of red poppies, ordinary people the place of special dignitaries, but nothing took the place of the Anzac spirit at the cancelled Commemoration Service at Normanby Hill Remembrance Park on Anzac Day.
Despite the service being cancelled by the Gympie RSL because of inclement weather, more than 250 people turned up at Normanby Hill to remember the fallen.
What was to be a highly organised service turned into an impromptu one, run by the people.
Without a PA system Salvation Army envoy Don Nottage stood in the thick fog at the foot of the monument and led proceedings.
The Gympie State High school band played, Karyn De Vere, Brodie Holmes and the crowd sang, while Jason McPherson collected purple salvia blooms from the adjoining gardens.
But the most emotional part of the impromptu service was an unplanned speech by Vietnam veteran David Collins.
“They didn’t stop firing bullets in war when it was raining, so why should we stop remembering,” an emotional Mr Collins said.
He then went on to speak about his grandfather who along with his grandfather’s two brothers survived the landing at Gallipoli in World War I only for all three of them to be killed later in the war in Belgium.
“The fact that all of you are here today fills me with pride,” Mr Collins said.
“What has happened here today is fabulous. You should all be proud of yourselves,” he said.
Gympie man Jason McPherson was in the crowd at the Dawn Service when the announcement was made about the cancellation of the Commemoration Service.
He said a lot of ex-servicemen in the crowd were visibly upset that the service had been cancelled.
One digger said to him that they didn’t stop the war because of rain.
Mr McPherson took it upon himself to do something for the ex-serviceman.
He went and saw the teacher from Gympie High who agreed to get the band to turn up at Normanby Hill Remembrance Park. The teacher then rang singer Karyn De Vere who also agreed to come along.
‘It didn’t take much organising. Everybody was really happy to help,” Mr McPherson said.
“If I was ever lining up to go to war, the people who turned up at that service are the ones I would like to go with me.
“It was an emotional day, it really knocked me around.”
Mr McPherson said he could understand the RSL had to make a decision and they thought they were doing the right thing, but said there was no reason for shortcuts on Anzac Day.
“In the future if it is raining I will organise to have some shelter,” Mr McPherson said.
“I would put a tarp out and stand up in the hail.
“It is the least we can do,” he said.
Mr McPherson said he didn’t think he did anything special.
“If I didn’t do it some one else would have,” he said.
RSL President Ivan Friske said he was disappointed the RSL had to cancel the Commemoration Service saying they had to make their decision before the Dawn Service.
Mr Friske said rain during the early hours of the morning had forced the RSL to cancel the event.