Natalie Centenera reports:
Darkness was still enveloping the War Memorial in Two Wells on Anzac morning when residents quietly began streaming into the grounds, gathering around the World War One monument under a canopy of stars.
They looked up at the flags flying at half-mast in the cold breeze and embraced the significant occasion with a heart full of respect and gratitude.
When the half-light of dawn broke, the 100-year commemoration service began.
Approximately 1500 people stood silent, spilling out from the memorial grounds onto the road and into the playground, resolute against the biting chill of morning’s first breath.
Some wore their own medals, some proudly wore that of their forefathers, but all paid homage to the first Anzacs and the men and women who have given their lives in service since.
President of Two Wells RSL, Tony Flaherty, welcomed the largest crowd ever at a Dawn Service in Two Wells and noted that the Australian flag flying was one that had previously flown over Camp Baker in Afghanistan.
A history of Australian casualties from Gallipoli was given, and a wreath was laid in remembrance of John Harris, the youngest Australian to die in battle at Gallipoli at just 15 years of age.
The roll of honour was read for WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan before Scott McBain gave a moving rendition of the poem, Unknown Soldier.
After the Lord’s Prayer came the laying of wreaths by councilor Karen McColl, member for Taylor Leesa Vlahos, and a member of the South Australian Police Force.
Families who adopted a memorial stone were able to place a wreath upon them and members of the public were then invited to lay the wreathes that they had brought with them.
With lumps in throats and watery eyes, the young and old observed the solemn occasion with dignity and respect.
Following the Ode of Remembrance, the haunting sounds of the bugle playing the Last Post brought a minute silence and the warmth of the rising sun.
Ian ‘Polly’ Politis and Rohan Powell, two parts of one of Australia’s best corporate coverband outfit, ‘Acoustic Juice’, sang the National Anthem.
The Maori National Anthem was then played and so concluded the end of what seemed to be the dawn of a new era in the observance of Anzac Day in Two Wells.
Such a successful commemoration at the new memorial was acknowledged by all who attended and the feeling of goodwill and stirring of emotions reverberated throughout the attendees.
Good humour, larrikinism and mateship, qualities that are the foundation of the Anzac myth, were alive and in abundance at the Two Wells Community Centre where a hot breakfast was served for those who braved the early morning chill to pay their respects.
John Atherton, Vice President of the Two Wells RSL, was delighted that the weather held out, “brilliant morning” he said, “biggest crowd we’ve ever had here, bigger than expected for the 100-year centenary”.
Veteran Sergio Bolzon, and his mate Domenic Trimboli, sacrificed their morning and presence at the service to fire up the barbeque ready for the free breakfast served by the RSL.
“There’s nothing better than this”, Sergio proclaimed after finishing his shift on the hotplates, referring to the sense of community that morning.
“I’m happy to do this for the town” he said. He once previously served the country abroad, but now through his time with the RSL “it’s about serving the community”.
Domenic Trimboli acknowledged the efforts of the community in the last 12 months to have the memorial ready for the 100-year centenary, and recognised the vision and devotion of RSL president Tony Flaherty in having it finished on time and in a stately manner, despite the sometimes controversial nature of the project.
Tony, and the RSL members, were considerably moved by the turnout, and visibly happy that a respectable memorial was created for a town eager to pay their respects to the men and women who have, and will, serve our country.
With what has been termed ‘the rise, and rise of Anzac Day’ across the nation in the past few years, it is fitting that Two Wells RSL has provided an appropriate platform in the heart of the town for generations to continue the tradition of honouring our heroes on the 25th of April each year, and indeed every day that we pause and remember.