Anzac Day – On this day at this place honouring those who gave so much

26/04/18 Category: Blog, News Posted by:

A commemoration of Anzac Day involving RAAF Ladies, Cricket NSW Academy, RAAF XI, and the Bradman XI

Bradman Oval, Anzac Day 2018

by Rodney Cavalier

An honour to be invited back for the second year of what we hope will be an ongoing tradition. You on the oval this day are the creators of that tradition.

When Australian forces won a strategic battle that advanced the frontline, consolidation mean the building of an airstrip that facilitated the expeditious delivery of supplies and the capacity for sorties to advance the frontline.

The engineers and work crews provided their expertise and labour to the next obvious step – levelling the ground and preparing a pitch 22 yards long to make possible the joyful seriousness of cricket. Cricket advanced with our troops in theatres of war in Africa and Asia. Wherever our troops went they took cricket with them.

In 1944 at the Guildhall in London, our greatest Prime Minister, John Curtin, explained to an audience of the great and good why Australia had been sending its airmen from the earliest days to a distant conflict in Europe. There are 22 yards at Lord’s Cricket Ground, he explained, that is important to Australians and we want cricket to return there for matches between Australia and England if that it is what free men decide they want. We want to be able to make those decisions.

Curtin did not offer grandiloquence. He reduced such a massive conflict that involved the future of civilisation and the survival of entire races to a cricket pitch. He said what he believed, he said what he said because he believed what he said. He did not workshop his words with his staff or run it through a focus group. John Curtin said what John Curtin believed.

If you ever go to Lord’s on the wall at the back of the Members Pavilion is a plaque honouring the ground’s role during the Second World War as a training ground for the men who took to the skies in the Battle of Britain and the ongoing conflict. Many of those men were Australians.

In the European theatre the number of Australians in the Air Force killed in action was greater than the Army and Navy combined. Australians had been present in the earliest engagements of the air war. They were among the Few in the decisive engagement we know as the Battle of Britain. 5117 Australians died in Europe. Their deeds remain largely unrecorded.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Australian fliers flocked to Britain to enlist in the war against Germany. They were organised in RAAF squadrons, others served in the RAF.

In the Great War, when the strategic value of planes in the sky was being tested, our flyers were involved.

On this day in 1918 at Villers-Bretonneux the Australians launched a counter-offensive against the German occupants of the town. John Monash devised the first joint air-ground operation in the history of war. Anzac Day 1918 is more important than the powerful stories associated with the Dardanelles in 1915.

The Dardanelles ended in utter defeat, Villers-Bretonneux was where the AIF absorbed the epicentre of the last great German offensive, blunted it and pushed back. On this day 100 years ago occurred the decisive victory that would bring the war to an end. The credit belongs to our men in the sky and our troops on the ground.

The Royal Australian Air Force honours cricket by sending teams to Bowral to maintain a tradition on the most sacred of days in the Australian calendar. Making available an oval named after such a fine cricketer reveals the high regard cricket has for our armed forces.

For millions in the summer of the German surrender 1945 an Australian Services XI affirmed that life in its richness had returned, a mission they extended to the sub-continent and to Australia itself. No one had a longer war than these men. 11 of the 18 players were drawn from squadrons long stationed in the UK.

When the Great War famously ended at 11 o’clock on 11 November 1918, it was 8.00pm here in Bowral. Never has this town ever celebrated as it did that night. Within minutes the main street was engulfed with revelers. On Wednesday 13 November, proclaimed a national holiday, here at Glebe Park the families of the Southern Highlands celebrated with a monster picnic for all the children of the district.

So imagine this place when it was a vast open paddock minus buildings, minus boundary fences, imagine it on that November day in 1918, a sea of children and parents. Yes, among them were Donald Bradman, age 10, his brother and two of his sisters and Bill O’Reilly, age 13, and his brothers.

So many of the children had lost a father and older brother. No one present had not been touched by loss.

Joy was tempered by loss. Loss is permanent. Loss is personal.

Cricket celebrates life. Every game of cricket is important. Every cricketer is important.

Cricket is its own reason.

In playing cricket on this day at this place in the colours you wear you each honour those who gave so much to Australia.

 

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