More than 300 guests filled the Multiplex on Saturday for the Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch centenary gala dinner.
One hundred years ago on 1 September the Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch received its charter.
Since then it has supported men and women who have served in the Australia Defence Force and their families with advice and camaraderie.
Returned servicemen Bernie Phelan, Col Baldwin, Bruce Rogers and Freddie Fag attended the Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch centenary gala dinner to support one another and said the sub-branch was an important place where they could find comfort.
“It’s a place where veterans feel among friends and you don’t feel out of place,” Mr Rogers said.
“When we are with the local populations, sometimes because some of us have problems, we don’t always fit in.
“I didn’t join when I first came back from Vietnam, I wouldn’t be part of it. I could have been a 50-year-old member, but I am glad I joined in the end.”
Mates supporting mates
Past president Helen Blackburn said the RSL Sub-branch’s aim was always simple — to provide a helping hand for your mate.
“It’s an honour to be here at this very important occasion the centenary,” she said.
“And to be here also as a veteran is even more of an honour.
“Congratulations to those who organised the event, the sub-branch president, committee and staff — what a wonderful event.”
Vietnam veteran Bill Taylor said the strength in the Bundaberg Sub-branch was always on show and it was a marvellous milestone to reach.
“I think 100 years is important without a doubt, it shows the staying power and tenacity of the RSL,” Mr Taylor said.
“It was set 100 years ago to look after the welfare and wellbeing of returned servicemen and as the generations have continued, we’ve managed to maintain that, and I think that is very, very good.
“100 years is a long time when you look at any systems and I think it’s very important for sub-branches such as Bundaberg to celebrate these occasions — I am sure if I make 100, I will be celebrating!”
Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch centenary
Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch president Joseph Ellul said the centenary was just another way to show support to returned service men and women.
“The RSL looks after the veterans; we have about 1000 people on our books and it’s very important to Bundaberg,” Mr Ellul said.
“Anyone who has chosen to take a role in the military and put their life on the line deserves support for as long as they are alive.”
Mr Ellul said he expected about 300 people to attend the gala evening, including returned veterans, family and friends of those who have served in the armed forces.
He said the Returned Services League of Australia (RSL) was founded in 1916 by soldiers returning from the trenches of World War I, who congregated together, looking to give each other support.
A night not just for those who served
Legacy Bundaberg members Gabby Ryan and Del Heath have been with Legacy since 2009 and said as wives of men who had served, the RSL was important to them.
As war widows the pair said, through Legacy, they had formed many special friendships and were able to speak with others in the same situation.
“We have meetings and go and have lunch and this gives us the chance to catch up and speak to one another about similar pasts,” Mrs Heath said.
Mrs Heath said one of the other reasons why they attended the Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch centenary gala dinner was to listen to the Australian Army Band.
“We saw them last night at the Moncrieff and they were spectacular!” Mrs Ryan said.
Alwyne Evans reflects on proud heritage
Alwyne Eric Evans was a Sergeant Fitter Armorer in the air force during World War II and attended the evening with his son Clive.
Mr Evans said he was in the European theatre of operations.
“I have seen some amazing things in my time – I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie!” Mr Evans said.
The 93-year-old said back in “those days” he was kept busy training air crew to fly bombers.
“I live at the RSL Fairways now and things have changed, but I love Bundaberg,” Mr Evans said.
“My son was a Rhodesian Commander and I have an elder son in Canada who was in charge of the Rhodesian Artillery when the war finished.
“And my niece in Perth is the chair of the Rhodesian Armed Forces Association; her fiancé was killed two days before they were supposed to get married.
“So, she went to see the general-in-charge of the army and said she wanted his post and they appointed her, the only woman, appointed the Rhodesian Commander.
“She is quite a girl!”
Mr Evans said he had been around the world and was glad to have dropped his anchor in Bundaberg and he found the RSL Sub-branch to be very supportive.
“It’s no good regretting anything during life,” Mr Evans said.
All the best for the next 100 years
Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey attend the Bundaberg RSL Sub-branch centenary gala dinner and said it was a significant event.
“What a momentous and history making evening,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“We certainly have a proud tradition with the RSL Sub-branch and all the best for the next 100 years.”