The Mirror News

Celebrating 100 years of service to war veterans

• Official guests at the RSL Centenary 
Dinner last Saturday night included Major Gen. Greg Mellick, Colonel Doug Knight, Glen McDonald and Paul McMahon with Foster RSL President, Bruce Lester.


Foster RSL Sub-Branch’s two days of Centenary celebrations took place in Foster last Friday and Saturday, November 15 and 16.  The activities were designed to include all age groups in the community and the community responded with enthusiastic participation. 

Planning for the Centenary began nearly two years ago, resulting in a celebration of Foster RSL Sub-Branch’s humble beginning in 1919 and its continuous service to war veterans and the community during 100 years of operation.

There was a well attended two day Military display in P.J. Wilson Park Foster and a Centenary Dinner for 180 people  on the Saturday night to conclude the celebrations.

The Military display presented a collection of eclectic equipment used in wars which involved Australian forces over the past 100 years.   Included were military vehicles, weapons, tools and re-enactments of war time survival behind the lines, such as food preparation and medical attention.

• From left, David Pye, Deirdre Morgan, John Underwood and Russell Hughes were dressed for the occasion in  Foster RSL’s military display in P. J. Wilson Park last weekend, a part of the RSL’s centenary celebrations.

Approximately 300 students from Foster Primary School and Foster Secondary College attended the display throughout the day on Friday.   Despite the rain which persisted for most of the day, the students arrived with interest and enthusiasm and had plenty of questions to ask their guides.  Gippsland Win Television filmed activities and locals were featured on Win News that evening. RSL President Bruce Lester was interviewed speaking on the tragedy of war and the cost to nations in terms of people. “It’s important that we tell the tragedy of war in terms of people.  We need to pass this history on to young people, but at the same time not glorifying war”, he explained.

The display was staffed by members of the Geelong Military Re-enactment Group and individual re-enactors, assisted by Foster  RSL guides.

Exploring the  anti aircraft gun was popular with the students, who learned its operation and purpose from RSL Vice President Ian Sutton, who was familiar with its workings through his service in the Australian Navy. All the weaponry was unloaded and disabled according to Military display regulations.

Another item of interest to both young and old was the WW1 Military field hospital re-enactment, with two nurses wearing the nurses’ uniforms of that era and a line up of surgical instruments used in the field.  Likewise the cooking facility – a small, compact arrangement of metal containers which fitted together, used minimal fuel and cooked meals for several people. 

Other items included a Bren gun carrier, a WW1 Willy’s ambulance, a WW11 despatch motorcycle, a WW1 army officers’ vehicle complete with officers, a recreated quad bike as used on service in Afghanistan, and Australian mounted Lighthorsemen with their pack horse.  Army uniforms from WW1, WW11, Vietnam and Afghanistan were worn  – in some cases by veterans of those wars.

Fine weather on the Saturday saw more people visiting the display, and Foster RSL was very pleased with the attendance and the appreciation shown.

On Saturday evening 180 people sat down to a three course dinner in the Foster War Memorial Arts Centre.  The dinner was open to all interested members of the community, and the response was almost overwhelming, with the maximum number being quickly reached. From further afield and interstate, invited guests included more than 20 people from the Australian and Victorian Commandoes Association, as well as State and National RSL Dignitaries.

Foster RSL President Bruce Lester welcomed everyone present, including special guests Major General Greg Mellick, (retired) National President  RSL and National President Australian Commando Association; Colonel Doug Knight , Victorian President Australian Commando Association; Glen McDonald, Victorian Secretary Australian Commando Association; Paul and Angela McMahon, RSL Victoria,  representing Dr Robert Webster; Anne Davies, Manager Leongatha RSL; and Commander Mike Lovall (retired), President Fish Creek RSL

Keynote Speaker Colonel Knight spoke on the 75th Anniversary of Australian Commando operations.  He outlined the structure of the organisation and its role in penetration of enemy held territory on secret missions during war time.

These missions were often in the form of a small number of commandoes in a camouflaged boat with the objective of sinking enemy battleships or disabling other enemy operations.  Colonel Knight detailed successful Commando operations Jaywick and Rimau, paying tribute to the Australian Commandoes who lost their lives during these two missions.

The Melbourne based Pacific Belles Singers entertained dinner guests with their repertoire of 1940s songs, including war time numbers from WW11, and also from WW1. 

Last Sunday, the Commandoes held a service of commemoration at Tidal River for Australian Commandoes who lost their lives in service to Australia.  The commemoration took place at the Commando Memorial Pillar beside the campground, where a Commando training camp was installed during WW11.


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