As dawn broke across Tasmania, the great-granddaughter of an Australian soldier who was irrevocably changed by the horrors of World War I told of how she feels “blessed” by her connection to the Anzac legend.
With the annual pilgrimage to Hobart’s Cenotaph part of national commemorations to honour all who served, Charlotte Kenny was joined by a fellow student from Guilford Young College to recite a poem written for her great-grandfather.
Following the official dawn service welcome to dignitaries and catafalque party of four servicemembers taking up their positions, Charlotte and Meg Francis listened to prayer readings and hymns before Anglican Dean of Hobart Richard Humphrey reminded those gathered that 2018 marked a century since “the end of the so-called Great War, the war to end all wars”.
“We are gathered this morning in the sight of God remembering with pride and gratitude those who served and those who died for our nation in times of conflict to secure the freedom and peace we enjoy, and for the opportunity that is ours to build a better society for the generations to come,” Reverend Humphrey said.
Taking the lectern, Charlotte told the crowd “one of these 416,809 Australian servicemen in WWI was my great-grandfather, Anthony Arthur Flint”.
“Whilst his story, embedded within this poem, is no more or less heroic than any other … it is our hope that through its sharing we are reminded of the significance of our coming together this morning, of the reasons why the Anzac memory calls us to reflect on our connections to this past, and of why we remember that which has become the spirit of Anzac.”
Meg said: “For the most part, we are sheltered from the fears and threats of violence and war, with knowledge only of the stories of those who have faced these horrors directly.”
Charlotte Kenny, wearing her great-grandfather’s medals, with fellow student Meg Francis at Hobart’s dawn service. (ABC News: Gregor Salmon)
A 100-year-old red ensign flag catches the sunrise on Anzac Day in Scamander, Tasmania. (Supplied: Dale Matheson)
Cherishing an Anzac connection
Flint, a Lance Corporal with the 12th Infantry Battalion, was one of a number of men ordered to engage the enemy at Broodseinde Ridge, east of Ypres, Belgium on November 2, 1917.
Military records state his patrol was “fired on by a hostile machine gun”, with Flint volunteering to lead a team to capture the post, being “one of the first to reach the objective” – which saw him awarded the Military Medal.
He returned to Australia on Anzac Day in 1919, but was a changed man.
“Back to his island home is where he would now go, returning with only the remnants of old Arthur to show,” Meg said.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder would influence his life, his ability to be a father, and a husband to his wife.”
Charlotte said her connection to her Anzac relative made her feel “blessed”.
“What a privilege it is to stand here, on behalf of my great-granddad, to commemorate every past, present and future comrade.
“What a privilege it is to stand here and watch the sun rise, our feet upon settled soils, eyes open to still skies.”
Anthony Arthur Flint died in 1970.
Deeds of heroism a century old
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the battle of Villers-Bretonneux, which is widely regarded as a turning point in World War I.
Two Tasmanian recipients of Australia’s highest award for acts of bravery in wartime, the Victoria Cross, earned the honour for their deeds during the fight to recapture the French town from the Germans in 1918.
Tasmania’s Victoria Cross recipients
- Corporal Cameron Baird
- Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray
- Sergeant John Whittle
- Captain Percy Cherry
- Sergeant John Dwyer
- Sergeant Lewis McGee
- Sergeant Stanley McDougall
- Lieutenant Alfred Gaby
- Sergeant Percy Statton
- Captain James Newland
- Lance Corporal Sidney Gordon
- Lieutenant Guy Wylly
- Trooper John Hutton Bisdee
- Corporal Walter Brown
Walter Brown, born in New Norfolk, was a grocer in Sydney before enlisting in 1915.
Official records state that Brown, a Corporal at Villers-Bretonneux, was leading a party of soldiers who had taken over some newly-captured trenches in July 1918.
“When told that an enemy sniper was causing trouble, Brown discarded his rifle and picked up two Mills bombs.
“Running towards the post, he threw one bomb, which fell short, but on reaching the position he attacked a German with his fists and threatened the others with his remaining grenade. They all promptly surrendered.”
Official records list that despite Brown being “married and over-age”, he successfully enlisted to fight in World War II.
“He went missing after the fall of Singapore in February 1942; he was last sighted declaring, ‘No surrender for me’,” his entry on the Australian War Memorial website states.
Alfred Gaby, a Tasmanian from Scottsdale, had watched his older brothers go off to the Boer War. He got his chance in 1916.
War records state Gaby was in France in 1918, a Lieutenant in charge of a company of men when “early in the morning on 8 August, 2,000 guns opened fire, commencing the decisive battle”.
“He moved his unit to the east of Villers-Bretonneux towards Card Copse, where unbroken wire entanglements were encountered. Heavy fire from Germans covering a gap in the wire pinned down the Australians.
“During the advance, in a lone attack, he got through the barbed-wire and drove the enemy off, capturing four machine guns and 50 men. He then led the company on to its objective.”
For his bravery, Gaby would be awarded the Victoria Cross.
His entry on the Australian War Memorial website states just three days later, while “walking along the line to encourage his men”, Gaby was shot by a sniper and killed instantly.
About 420,000 Australians enlisted in World War I, including 15,484 from Tasmania, of which 2,432 would die on the battlefield.
The weather was picture perfect for the dawn service at Kingston Beach, Tasmania. (Supplied: Katy Morgan)
Equal recognition for Australia’s servicewomen was the focus of this morning’s ANZAC Day dawn service in Launceston, where an estimated 3,000 people gathered to pay their respects.
In her speech, Year 10 Scotch Oakburn college student Peta Antypas paid tribute to Australia’s female soldiers, who she said often did not get the same recognition as their male counterparts.
“Respect those gallant women who wear those medals by the left, they have earned that right,” she said.
Women were front and centre at the marches in Launceston and Hobart, as part of a national push to better recognise the contribution by servicewomen.
Terry Roe, RSL state president, said female veterans had not always received the recognition that they should have.
“When you look at the war veterans nowadays, most people think of a World War II digger, or a Vietnam digger or something like that, but the way the Defence is now, females are employed just about in every area,” he said.
“Females now serve overseas and have done for a long long period of time and the focus is that OK, they’re a veteran but they’re also young and that’s the next generation of veterans and the community needs to be just aware of that.
While thousands turned out for commemorations in the major centres, at Gormanston, on the west coast, a small but dedicated group of 30 paid tribute.
RSL member Simon Reynolds was one of several who paid respects to relatives buried at the Lyell cemetery — sharing a graveside beer.
“We find most of our soldiers in the cemetery, sadly, but we come down to thank them for what they’ve done,” he said.
Corporal Ashley Thompson has played the Last Post at the Hobart Cenotaph for more than a decade. (ABC News: Gregor Salmon)
Commander Rebecca Jeffcoat leads Australia’s southern-most Anzac Day dawn service at Casey research station in Antarctica, April 2018. (Supplied: Australian Antarctic Division)
Women were flagbearers for the Armed Forces in the Launceston Anzac Day parade. (ABC News Tim Morgan)
Launceston student Peta Antypas called for more respect to be shown to female veterans. (ABC News: Tim Morgan)
Young children wave flags at the Anzac Day parade in Launceston, April 2018. (ABC News: Tim Morgan)
Tasmanian Light Horse arrives at Hobart dawn service, Anzac Day 2018. (Supplied: Monte Bovill)