At Menangle Park Paceway, the hosts declared dinner and the bar ‘on the house’, a very generous and welcome gesture. The setting sun glanced its piercing rays through the marquee western windows and those within prepared to enjoy a convivial final night together. Speeches were made and dodgy ‘awards’ given.
After the conventional David Williamson briefing on Saturday 10th, the little phalanx led by faithful Lighthorseman Neil Hughes on Bubba set off the remaining kilometres alongside the railway line to the destination, Campbelltown. Assembly point, Koshigaya Park ~ noon.
Meantime, up in Mawson Park (named for the much loved local Dr Mawson, not his more illustrious brother of Antarctic fame), Campbelltown City Council workers were in full preparation mode for the Valedictory Commemoration. The stage came in on a huge truck, the backdrop was hung; a huge marquee was constructed panel by panel, 3-400 chairs were unstacked inside, the Navy (HMAS Kuttabul) came to set up their display, the Campbelltown Camden District Band formed up in their smart red and white livery, and with a glorious native flower arrangement in front of the lectern, all was ready.
At 13:30 (still being military), with Police escort on bicycles and horses, the parade set off from Koshigaya Park and processed up Queen Street, past all those 19th century buildings of the high Victorian period and even earlier, as no doubt the original Kangaroos did too. What an appealing thought. Along the way, cheers, photos and applause greeted the Marchers and the retinue of vintage vehicles including the ex-Military Vehicles that have been our camp movers from site to site all 5 weeks of this epic re-enactment.
With a right wheel into the Park, the ceremony started right on time, with both the New Zealand and Australian Anthems led by our singer, Angela Williamson. The Mayor of Campbelltown, Paul Hawker welcomed the Marchers, reflected on the time his predecessor did the same thing. MC Amanda King of the Campbelltown City Council, called Dr Brendan Nelson, the re-enactment March Patron to the podium, and as is his particular skill, he spoke with great passion about the contributions of the soldiers of all wars, and a Campbelltown lad in particular.
Graham Brown, our March president, opined if he and Vice-president Rhondda had had the slightest idea what they were letting themselves in for 3 years previously, they might both have had a Bex and a good lie down. Then he paid tribute to the other 7 members of the Kangaroo March Executive Committee.
Stories of young men who just might have been Kangaroos from the Campbelltown area were shared by school students in the Campbelltown Council’s Adopt a Digger programme. Angela came back to the stage to sing what several on the March re-enactment have termed ‘our anthem’ She Who Gives her Son, a song written by 2 Australian men in 1915 about a widow who gives her only son – reflective of several of the Kangaroos’ and their families’ stories – our tribute to Jessie Hall of Tumut, mother of Wingate, who came home, & 21 year old Leslie who didn’t, and all the other Mums.
The Mayor, a former military man, returned to the stage to enact the ‘Call to Arms’ for the ‘troops’ to March out. And so with the sounds of Ken Halliday’s drum, and the bagpipes filling the air, the re-enactment concluded almost on the dot of 15:00.
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