FALLEN DIG­GER LAID TO REST

The Un­known Sol­dier made the long jour­ney to his fi­nal rest­ing place in Can­berra 25 years ago

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - LIFESTYLE FLASHBACK -

TO­MOR­ROW the Gold Coast and the world will pause to re­mem­ber those fallen and the hor­rors of war.

It will mark 100 years since the end of World War I, the con­flict which was sup­posed to be the “war to end all wars”.

The war of­fi­cially ended at 11am on Novem­ber 11, 1918 af­ter an armistice was signed in France some hours ear­lier.

Along the line, many com­man­ders used the fi­nal hours to be­gin with­draw­ing troops from the front lines, see­ing no fur­ther point in fight­ing.

De­spite this, the bat­tles con­tin­ued in some quar­ters, with the last to die, an Amer­i­can, shot and killed at 10.59am, a minute be­fore peace came into ef­fect.

Re­mem­brance Day was a par­tic­u­larly solemn af­fair 25 years ago as the day was com­mem­o­rated with the in­ter­ring in Can­berra of Aus­tralia’s Un­known Sol­dier.

The Un­known Sol­dier’s re­mains ar­riv­ing at the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial 75 years af­ter his death on the West­ern Front was front page news on Novem­ber 11, 1993.

More than 35,000 peo­ple, many of them vet­er­ans, watched in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal as the Un­known Sol­dier was trans­ported by gun car­riage from old Par­lia­ment House to the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial.

Mil­lions watched a live tele­cast of the cof­fin in the pro­ces­sion, led by mil­i­tary es­cort and flanked by pall­bear­ers in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Paul Keat­ing, Op­po­si­tion Leader John Hew­son, ser­vices chiefs and the head of the RSL, Ma­jor Gen­eral William “Dig­ger” James.

It was fol­lowed by Gover­nor-Gen­eral Bill Hay­den, state pre­miers and other politi­cians.

Mr Keat­ing gave a fa­mous speech at the cer­e­mony, words of which are now carved into the me­mo­rial to the sol­dier.

“We know that he was one of the 45,000 Aus­tralians who died on the West­ern Front. One of the 416,000 Aus­tralians who vol­un­teered for ser­vice in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Aus­tralians who served over­seas in that war and one of the 60,000 Aus­tralians who died on for­eign soil. One of the 100,000 Aus­tralians who have died in wars this cen­tury,” Mr Keat­ing said.

“He is all of them. And he is one of us.”

On the Gold Coast, one of the few re­main­ing World War I vet­er­ans spoke ap­prov­ingly of the ser­vice.

For Dan Shel­don, a vet­eran of two world wars, Re­mem­brance Day was some­thing he had been await­ing for 75 years.

It was the day he re­mem­bered his mates and saw Aus­tralia fi­nally en­shrine a sym­bol that would re­mind fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of the men who lost their lives fight­ing.

Mr Shel­don, then 91, was one of three Gold Coast World War I vet­er­ans who braved the rain out­side the South­port RSL to com­mem­o­rate the armistice and the day the Un­known Sol­dier was buried on home soil. “I am glad he has come home,” Mr Shel­don said. “Hav­ing him here will make peo­ple think and re­mem­ber his­tory.”

Mr Shel­don, who re­ceived a brav­ery award, said he be­lieved Re­mem­brance Day would never be for­got­ten even af­ter the last World War I vet­eran passed away. “My son fought in Viet­nam and my other son is a com­man­der in the Navy and as long as peo­ple re­mem­ber those who died in the war, Armistice Day will never be for­got­ten,” he said.

“But I don’t like the idea of a repub­lic. We fought un­der the flag and if it goes I think a lot of his­tory will be for­got­ten.”

Mr Shel­don joined around 100 peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren, young men and vet­er­ans, at the ser­vice.

Even those who did not at­tend but were talk­ing nearby stopped in their tracks as The Last Post rang out.

Gold Coast World War I and II vet­eran Dan Shel­don on Re­mem­brance Day in 1993, then aged 91, the year the Un­known Sol­dier was laid to rest at the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial in Can­berra (be­low).

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