Perfect weather accompanied this year’s VP Day commemoration, with the Walkway looking its very best bathed in warm winter sunshine. This year’s Guest of Honour was His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC, Governor of NSW, accompanied by Mrs Linda Hurley. Our well-loved Ex-Governor, Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD, CVO was a special guest, and delivered the Bible reading from St. Matthew’s gospel.
The Hon. David Elliott MP (Minister for Veteran Affairs, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Emergency Services) delivered the Prologue. After speaking of the great sacrifices made during the Second World War, the Minister made mention of a number of other important current military anniversaries, including the devastating battles of Fromelles and Pozières, fought 100 years ago on the battlefields of Northern France. At Fromelles the 5th Division AIF suffered 5,533 casualties in less than 24 hours; while at Pozières a mere two kilometres was gained at a cost of 23,000 causalities. The Minister then made mention of the courageous Battle of Long Tan which took place in in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, fifty years ago on August 18th 1966.
Ms Carole Anne Priest, Deputy Chair. of the Walkway, welcomed all those attending this year’s commemoration. Ms Priest reminded everyone of the immense effort that was required of a truly great generation which experienced the most devastating conflict in human history.
The 71st Commemorative VP Day address was delivered by Lieutenant General Kenneth Gillespie AC, DSC, CSM (former Chief of Army). The General gave a detailed description of the threat and attacks launched against Australia in the dark days of 1942. He paid tribute to the professionalism and courage of both the 2nd AIF and Militia troops, the latter open to undue suspicion and criticism until their worth and tenacity was demonstrated in the fierce battles which took place in New Guinea. The General drew attention to the fight for Milne Bay where the Australians were the first to prove that the Imperial Japanese Army could be defeated in a land battle.
Following the General’s address, the commemorative service followed the traditional form, with prayers and hymns led by the Rev. Paul Weaver (Anglican Chaplain CRGH) and Fr. Grame Malone SSS (Roman Catholic Chaplain CRGH).
A 10 minute video presentation, entitled “The end of the War and Adapting to Peace” was shown on a large screen. This compilation of moving and still images underlined the great physical movements of both military and civilian populations, and their having to adapt to radically changed circumstances at the sudden and unexpected conclusion to the Second World War.
A highlight of this year’s commemoration was a presentation by the Governor of NSW of Certificates of Appreciation to our highly-valued veterans. They generously donate their time throughout the year to provide commentaries to young Walkway visitors on their unique first hand experiences of the Second World War.
Brigadier Phil McNamara CSC ESM OAM (Walkway Director), recited the Ode to the Fallen, and at the conclusion of the formal proceedings, Mr John Haines AM thanked all those responsible for the success of the day. A special mention is warranted for the Corrective Services NSW Band for their splendid performance throughout the Commemoration.
John K Wright