Ap­pren­tices trek to Al­bany

Albany Advertiser - - REMEMBRANCE DAY 2018 - Toby Hussey

As many as 35 for­mer army ap­pren­tices have trekked to Al­bany — in­clud­ing a notable Viet­nam War vet­eran— to take part in Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­monies.

The for­mer Aus­tralian Army Ap­pren­tices, many of whom joined as teenagers be­tween 1948 and 1995, have made their way from across the world for Al­bany’s ar­mistice cen­te­nary events.

The Army Ap­pren­tice Scheme took vol­un­teers be­tween 15 and 17 years old to train them in trades in­clud­ing draugh­t­ing, black­smithing, weld­ing and ra­dio en­gi­neer­ing, and many went on to serve in the army.

The pro­gram grad­u­ated 7500 ap­pren­tices into the Aus­tralian reg­u­lar army in its time. In­cluded is Aus­tralian Army Ap­pren­tices As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent and the last Aus­tralian sol­dier to leave the Aus­tralian prov­ince in Viet­nam in 1971, Bob Coven­try.

Mr Coven­try joined the ap­pren­tices as a ra­dio me­chanic at age 15 and op­er­ated a ra­dio un­til the last heli­copter left Nui Dat. “Many ap­pren­tices re­mained in the sys­tem un­til re­tire­ment, serv­ing their coun­try in both Aus­tralia and overseas,” he said.

For­mer ap­pren­tice and Al­bany re­tiree Ian French said the ap­pren­tices scheme helped take teenage boys and mould them into skilled men.

Mr French, whose dad served in the Korean and Viet­nam wars, said join­ing up was “a nat­u­ral thing” for him.

“The scheme was in­te­gral in breed­ing good trades­peo­ple to sup­port a rapidly mod­ernising (army),” he said.

More than 1200 ap­pren­tices led the An­zac Day pa­rade in Can­berra this year. On Sun­day they will be distin­guished with a green and yel­low flag.

Ian French and Andy Sears.

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