The Yarrawonga and Mulwala communities showed the Anzac spirit is alive and well locally with bumper crowds at ceremonies held last week.
Despite persistent rain throughout the day, the Dawn Service, Mulwala March and Yarrawonga March were all well attended.
There was particularly noticeable representation from young community members, a fact met with great delight by Yarrawonga Mulwala RSL Sub-Branch President Ian Summers.
“Thank you to everyone for being here today (Anzac Day) and we particularly welcome with open arms all the young people and students who are here to contribute to the day,” Mr Summers said.
“For it is the young people who are the future of this tradition and we secure that investment.”
After a large turnout at the Dawn Service, the Mulwala March was well attended with school students from Mulwala Public School, Savernake Primary School, Sacred Heart Primary School and College and Yarrawonga College P-12 marching in the driving rain.
The schools also formed a large part of the Yarrawonga marching contingent, joined by Cathedral College Wangaratta and the Yarrawonga Guide and Scout groups.
While the numbers of veterans and descendants participating at the services might be slowly decreasing, the number of young people involved bolstered numbers to provide a proud marching party.
The Wangaratta Pipe Band once again led the marches, adding great atmosphere to the services, and bugler Andrew Brew provided moving refrains of the Last Post and Reveille.
Those assembled were also led ably in singing God Save The Queen and Advance Australia Fair by the familiar vocals of John Duncan.
At both Mulwala and Yarrawonga the services had the privilege of hosting a Catafalque Party, members of which stood in proud silence throughout the services.
Guest speaker Captain Paul Willee RFDFS QC opened his remarks by commenting on the participation of young people in Anzac Day services, in particular the addresses delivered by senior students at the Dawn Service.
“After attending the Dawn Service and hearing those students speak it is clear that the young have, once again, shown us the way and restored our faith in the country and our young people,” Captain Willee said.
“I’ve never heard young people speak with such eloquence and such understanding of the Anzac story.”
Captain Paul Willee joined the Navy Reserve as a recruit, progressing through the ranks from seaman diver to OC Diving Team 6.
His service overlapped with that in the legal branch and in 1975 he was appointed a Prosecutor for the Queen for the State of Victoria.
In the next decade Captain Willee set up the Commercial Crime Group and became one of the four founding members of the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand.
He has acted as an advisor to the Chief of the Defence Force and Chief of Navy and his final posting before retirement was as Head of the Military Bar.
Captain Willee spoke about the academic debate surrounding the true meaning of Anzac and how the definition of such can differ, even from a New Zealand to Australian perspective.
He said the meaning of Anzac had been debated over many years, it was flexible and changeable, and often included discussion specifically of the Gallipoli landing and why troops felt entitled to take to the battlefield.
However, in conclusion, Captain Willee paraphrased the words of Colonel Mustafa Kemal, Turkish Army Commander at the Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I and later the country’s first republic-elected president.
“He said all our brothers and our enemies lie together in the soil at Gallipoli,” Captain Willee said. “There is no difference between them where they lay side by side.”