Graeme's Message, 30 April 2015

Dear Rotarians and friends

At last week’s meeting we commemorated ANZAC day with a series of speakers providing differing perspectives on both WW1 and WW2.

We were honoured to have Meryem Aksakal, exchange student from District 2430 in Turkey, speaking to us. The Rotary Club of Keilor East arranged an exchange during this ANZAC Centenary year so that Meryem could be in Australia and Brendan Mansell from Hoppers Crossing, in Turkey. Meryem gave a summary of her time in Australia and also told us of her connection with Gallipoli. Her great great great grandfather Ahmet, fought and died fighting on Gallipoli for the Turkish troops. Brendan’s great great grandfather was an ANZAC on Gallipoli. What a wonderful opportunity for both Meryem and Brendan and is a great example of the benefit of Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program.

We also heard from Joy Thompson of her great uncles, from the Miller family of Gordon Street who went off to WW1. Percy died in one of the most devastating battles of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, on Hill 60, shortly before the evacuation of the peninsula. His younger brother Wally died on the Western Front just prior to the battle at Fromelles. Such stories were common to many families.

Veterans of WW1 who were relatives of club members have been acknowledged in previous editions of the Bulletin but it is worth mentioning them again: John Melhuish, Carol Castano’s grandfather, William Lowe, John McDonald-Smith’s grandfather and Cecil Johnstone, Rodney Johnstone’s great grandfather.

It is worth noting that General Sir John Monash who was at Gallipoli and later the allied Commander on the Western Front was a Rotarian and the second President of the Rotary Club of Melbourne. 

Our own member Wal McCulloch was interviewed by Roger Batrouney. We learnt of his experiences as a bomber in the RAF Lancasters during WW2, including his apprehension as he flew towards Germany. Fearing that the bombs would kill children and innocent civilians, he realized the need to destroy munitions and other factories central to the German war effort. He was in the air heading off on another mission when peace was declared and remembers the pilot making a very steep bank as they headed back to base! The full interview is available and well worth listening to.

The words of Charles Bean, the official WW1 Historian apply to all that that have served our nation:

What these men did, nothing can alter now.
The good and the bad, the greatness and the smallness of their story
It rises ... it always rises, above the mist of ages
A monument to great hearted men, and for their nation – a possession forever.