With blazers fitted tightly and their medals displayed proudly, Bathurst’s war veterans were applauded as they marched through the CBD during yesterday’s Anzac Day commemorations.
The annual Anzac Day commemorative services drew thousands to Kings Parade in a dedicated showing of respect and acknowledgement.
Bathurst RSL Sub Branch president David Mills said the service was a humbling experience for all involved.
“The crowd has been phenomenal, and it goes to show that the Anzac spirit is alive and well,” Mr Mills said.
Yesterday’s service also marked the christening of a brand new eternal flame for the Bathurst War Memorial Carillon; a 600-kilogram bronze sculpture with in-built LED lights.
Among the first to observe the new sculpture were the six surviving Bathurst veterans of World War Two, in what Mr Mills referred to as an emotional moment.
“In some ways, it’s a celebration of their service, but it also evokes sadness towards the many who are no longer here and the many more who never came home,” he said.
The commemoration was a bittersweet experience for 96-year-old Ian Brewer, who served in the New Zealand cavalry [and later air force] between 1940 and 1945.
“I am the only person of my unit who is still alive, and it does get lonely at times,” Mr Brewer said.
“While it’s gratifying to be recognised for your service, you’ll never find any veteran reflecting on war as a glorifying and enlightening experience.”
Mr Brewer fought throughout Southeast Asia against the Japanese and reflected on the experience as a trying affair.
“In those days, you’d go into camp for three months and take a month’s leave because they didn’t have the equipment or facilities to train the number of men they needed,” he said.
“I don’t consider myself a hero, but me and my comrades did our duty and made sure to honour the Anzac code.”
Mr Brewer embodies the importance of New Zealand’s role in the Anzac legacy.
Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger also made sure to reflect on New Zealand’s contribution to Anzac Day in his speech through acknowledging the address of their prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.
“Ms Ardern reflected on the virtues of freedom, democracy and peace, and these words resonate with the spirit of Anzac Day and what it’s all about,” Mr Hanger said.
“These virtues contribute to a peaceful society.”