Descendants urged to join march

City of Lismore RSL Sub-Branch president, Bob Mowle, with his fathers service medals from WWI and WWII.

Bob Mowle has been a member of the RAAF for 26 years and has served overseas as a peacekeeper, but it wasnt until he travelled to the Middle East, where his father had served in WWI, that he began to comprehend what those men had lived through.

Bob, president of the City of Lismore RSL Sub-Branch, will be marching not just for himself this Anzac Day but also for his father and his uncle, who fought in the famous battle of the Somme in France during WWI.

For the first time this year descendants of deceased veterans are invited to march behind their own banner, displaying the medals of their relatives so the gathered crowds can pay their respects.

Bob believes its an important way to involve the wider community in Anzac Day and ensure young people dont forget the enormous sacrifice many young soldiers made.

Every Anzac Day as I march down Molesworth Street I see people on the footpath and young children proudly wearing medals from a relative who served. Many of those veterans are deceased but their service should still be acknowledged, Bob said. This year our RSL Sub-Branch visited 16 schools to talk to the students; not to glorify war but to give them an understanding of the sacrifices made. This is yet another way of making sure the contribution those men made continues to be recognised generation after generation.

Bobs father served during WWI in the 6th Light Horse Regiment, which drove the Turks out of what was then Palestine, and in WWII he fought in New Guinea. It was only when Bob visited the Middle East some time after his fathers death that he truly began to understand just how tough life had been.

Ive been to the Middle East and seen the desolation of that desert and they had such primitive equipment; there werent any helicopters in that campaign. The wounded were carried on stretchers on the backs of camels, and water and food were scarce. The famous Charge at Beersheeba was borne of necessity they had to get water for the horses that evening and they had to do it before the Turks poisoned the wells, Bob said. It was totally different but just as harsh in New Guinea. Its hard to imagine the oppressive heat, the swamps, the constant rain, the dehydration, the mosquitoes and the ever-present threat of malaria. Then you have to think of these blokes carting the heavy components for artillery guns up a bloody great hill to fire at the Japanese, because they had to get up there and support their mates in the infantry. Mere words cant convey what they must of went through.

Bob said its important to remind young people of these experiences as it is often inconceivable for a generation that has never been to war.

In todays world it is almost incomprehensible to think that 18 and 19-year-old boys would go to north Africa and live six months under siege at Tobruk, Bob said. They lived in holes in the ground to drive back the German army, while battling sandstorms and constantly being under attack. It was tremendous what our fathers and our grandfathers did, and it is something we should never forget.

Anyone with medals of a deceased veteran is urged to join the Anzac Day march on April 25. Simply turn up at Browns Creek car park (near the police station) after 8.30am and look for the descendants of veterans banner.

For more information about Anzac Day activities, phone the RSL Sub-Branch on 6621 3851.

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