Saturday 7 December 2013 dawned bright and sunny in Wagga Wagga. In several sectors of the city a bustle of activities was occurring: The Army Band at Kapooka packing their musical instruments ready to play in the Victory Memorial Gardens. The catering people putting garnishes on dainty morsels downstairs in the Wagga Art Gallery, and giving glassware a final sparkle. Young students from several local schools climbing into clothes young people haven’t worn for a century. The RSL Sub-branch personnel arranging chairs delivered for dignitaries. Shelter being erected against a standard Wagga summer sun for the NSW Governor. The Mayor gathering the folds of his caped red cloak under the regalia of office. Sound systems being set up in the Gardens; the ‘Stories & Enquiries’ tent standing at the ready, ‘womanned’ by the wonderful Wagga Wilderness Walkers. The Riverina Concert Band donning their crimson blazers. Period costumes adorning(the only word for it) the KMCRAI Executive.
From as far afield as the Hunter Valley, Sydney and the Southern Highlands, hundreds and hundreds of folk gathered in the Memorial Gardens after a Civic Reception for the Governor, the men and women of the NSW Centenary of ANZAC Advisory Committee, State MPs, and the Executive Committee of KMCRAI.
This was the day of THE LAUNCH of the Kangaroo March Centenary Re-enactment. And what a day we had. Four direct descendants of the original Kangaroo March and their families had made the journey to be part of a significant slice of history. Three generations of the Redheads and the Fitzgeralds came!
As the clock ticked on towards 2pm, the Governor, Professor Marie Bashir, AC CVO and her aide-de-camp arrived welcomed by Wagga’s Mayor Rod Kendall, the President of the RSL Sub-branch Kevin Kerr, and the President of the Kangaroo March Executive Committee Graham Brown. Kapooka’s Army Band played the vice-regal salute. And the Memorial Service proceeded seamlessly: prayers from the two Churches of the day, the Anglican and Catholic Priests, wreaths from school children, the War Widows Guild, the Armed Forces, the ANZAC Committee in the person of General(now Sir) Peter Cosgrove, AC MC, Vice-president of the KMCRAI Rhondda Vanzella, OAM, Mayors or their representatives from along the route of the March, the Patron of the KMCRAI, the Honourable Dr Brendan Nelson, MPs, the Governor, President of KMCRAI, and members of the public. The Anthem was played brilliantly by the Army Band from Kapooka and sung by KMCRAI Executive Committee member & soprano, Angela Williamson.
Following the Service, the crowd re-assembled near the Stage in the Gardens, and the formal speeches were given their introduction by MC Phil Pinyon, Wagga Council’s General Manager. Mayor Kendall welcomed everyone to the city, NSW Premier’s deputy spoke, followed by our Governor, a Riverina lady, who made reference to our good fortune following the sacrifices of the Kangaroos. General Cosgrove as Chairman of the NSW Centenary of ANZAC Advisory Council publicly endorsed the re-enactment of the Kangaroo March. Dr Nelson, our patron, included in his remarks a gentle plea for in-kind or monetary support for the re-enactment, and our President Graham Brown spoke of how the March was proposed to play out in 2015.
We had the great pleasure too of listening to students in period costume from several local schools singing songs of yesteryear under the baton of KMCRAI Executive Committee member OJ Rushton, and one very recent, composed by OJ herself, reflecting our nation’s gratitude to those long ago soldiers and their families. Then, and only then, the symbolic march-out took place.
To a commentary by narrator Angela Williamson of what had transpired 98 years ago, the Riverina Concert Band struck up, the cadets of today dressed in the dungarees and white hats similar to those of the original recruits fell in, the Lighthorse support raised their banners high, and the March rolled. The huge crowd clapped and cheered, as their 5000-plus forebears did in 1915.
And, on 5th September 2015, the full re-enactment will commence from the fair city of Wagga Wagga.
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