Alstonvilles Shirley Oag is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, and at age 80-something she is more than ready for it.
In April Shirley is heading for the Gallipoli battlefields to spend Anzac Day contemplating the lives of the men who fought in the famous battle that claimed 10,000 Australian soldiers.
In particular Shirley will be reflecting on her own fathers life, and retracing the horror and sadness Billy Gwynne would have endured as one of the original Anzacs who landed on that fateful day, April 25, 1915, on the shores of the Turkish Aegean coast.
Private William Gwynne, No. 37 of the 15th Battalion, witnessed the deaths and casualties of Gallipoli before transferring to France for more battles and ending up a prisoner of war for 15 months.
He returned to Australia at the end of the war with a new Scottish bride, set up a farm in Goonellabah, fathered four children and got on with his life.
My father rarely spoke about his experiences in the war, said Shirley. Little things would maybe come out on Anzac Day, but what is there to talk about? To see your mates killed in front of your eyes the mind boggles as to what that would feel like. And as you can well imagine, being a prisoner of war wouldnt have been a pleasant experience.
Shirley is preparing for her trip of a lifetime by reading Les Carlyons Gallipoli, but confessed that nothing can prepare her for the emotions she will feel when she arrives at her destination.
It will be a very moving experience for me and I will find it very emotional retracing my fathers footsteps, said Shirley. There are no winners in war, and even though I have been raised proudly in the Anzac tradition and I dont think Anzac Day should ever be forgotten, it would be lovely if we could all live in peace.
The 2007 Ballina RSL Club Gallipoli Tour departs April 19 and includes four nights in the heart of Gallipoli, extensive touring of the Gallipoli battlefields with Australian war historians as guides, assistance in researching family members, and an Anzac Day dawn service at Lone Pine.
Bookings close on February 6, so those interested need to book soon. For a complete copy of the tour itinerary featuring day to day descriptions visit www.ballinarsl.com.au or pick up a tour brochure from the member service counter at the Ballina RSL Club. Phone enquiries should be directed to Cathie Johnston on 6681 9504.
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