Anzac Day has its own special meaning to each individual. For Jock Gardner of Childers, it’s a time to reflect, to remember and to walk the path that many veterans have walked since that first Anzac Day commemoration in 1916.
Today, Anzac Day, Jock Gardner took a brisk walk past the Childers memorial room, paused to remember, then headed home to enjoy a cup of strong tea and freshly baked Anzac biscuits while thinking about mates, past and present.
At 16 years of age Jock Gardner couldn’t wait to leave Childers and when he spotted a Navy recruitment advertisement he thought that could be the life for him.
He joined the Royal Australian Navy on January 4, 1969, completed his training in Fremantle and that year, at 17 years of age, was part of the ship’s complement ferrying troops and equipment to Vietnam on board the HMAS Sydney.
“HMAS Sydney was a former aircraft carrier converted to a troop ship. Sailing to Vung Tau in southern Vietnam with troops and equipment on board you really understood you were heading to a war zone. There was always firing practice and drills to keep the troops up to the mark,” he said.
Jock said the ship was always at high alert and when in port in Vietnam it was invariably a nervous time.
“The Viet Cong could mix easily with anyone and everyone simply because they were locals. There were always underwater inspections of the ship’s hull to make sure nothing nasty had been attached to the ship.
“If you saw something floating in the vicinity of the ship you were always wary that it could be the enemy under a water lily or some other debris attempting to get close to the ship.”
Jock spent 22 years in the Navy, retiring at the age of 38 with the rank of Warrant Officer serving within the Investigations Section of the Naval Police.
Those years produced some memorable moments including a brief stint aboard the Royal yacht “Britannia” during a Royal visit.
A special Wedgewood piece is a memento of that service.
“Basically, for the last three years of my service I was the Supervising Warrant Officer for the Pacific Rim which was quite an extensive area of responsibility,” he said.
“I will miss the traditional Anzac Day march this year. It is a great opportunity to see many people that you only catch up with on Anzac Day.
“I enjoy that camaraderie of marching in the street parade and then attending the service. The afternoon is a little more relaxed having completed the serious side of the observance.
“At the moment and with this current crisis affecting the world we really need to draw on the spirit of the Anzacs,” he said.
“All those great traits like perseverance, resilience, good humour and mateship which helped the Anzacs through tough times.
“We also need to spare a thought for all those who at this moment stand ready in defence of our country.
We live in a fantastic country and I live in a great community, so I feel we have much to be grateful for.”
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