‘‘WOULD you be willing to die for your best mate?’’
Father John Tinkler of the Moama RSL sub-branch began the opening prayer of Saturday’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the Moama War Memorial with this question.
In the twin towns, in 2017, it’s moot.
Unfortunately for those locals who served, circa 1914-1918, it was a cruel reality — a frightening scenario many of them faced on a daily, even hourly, basis.
‘‘Who is your best mate? Would you be willing to die for your best mate?’’ Fr Tinkler asked.
Most Australians have heard the expression ‘‘for King and country,’’ a political rallying cry for what serving as an Anzac meant in World War I.
But Fr. Tinkler shone a new light on the reasons to fight that many had not considered.
‘‘Mateship,’’ Fr Tinkler said, ‘‘is being willing to die for your mates.’’
Mateship was a word that would come to define the Anzac barely 20 years later in World War II — it is carved into the memorial on the Kokoda trail.
As with all Remembrance Day services it also gave those in attendance the opportunity to acknowledge key battles in Australia’s military history.
It’s been 99 years since the end of World War I, while it’s been 100 years since the battle of Beersheba; when elements of the 1st and 3rd Lighthorse charged the town Beersheba.
On exhausted and dehydrated horses, the men worn down from constant fighting and draining conditions were ordered to take the town and its vital wells.
Considered the last great charge in military history, with bayonets not swords, they took the town and rode into history.
Using only their bayonets, the ANZAC soldiers took the town, hospital and barracks, taking 96 prisoners in what is referred to as the last great horse charge in military history.
Moama sub-branch vice president John Lock, who spoke to the crowd about the battle, said the day was incredibly important to those who have served and their families.
‘‘This is a day for all of us to get to remember those we served with, those who we lost during battles,’’ Mr Lock said.
Following the service, Moama RSL opened its doors for two-up, in true Australian tradition.
Across the river in Echuca more than 200 people gathered at the same time to remember and honour the same legions of Australian men and women who had gone before.
‘‘This is a day to reflect and remember.’’
It wasn’t much.
Only eight words.
But that was how Echuca RSL sub-branch vice president Mike Bennett captured Remembrance Day.
‘‘I’ve spent 30 years in the air force and had a number of friends die from military actions, today is a day for me to remember them,’’ Mr Bennett said.
‘‘War destroys people ... this is a day to reflect and remember.’’
That’s what the more than 200 did in Echuca on Saturday. They paused and remembered. And at 11am held a minute’s silence to remember the fallen.
‘‘Today represents the 99th anniversary of that event. The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. The moment when hostilities ceased,’’ Mr Bennett said.
‘‘I commend you to wear your poppies in humility to remember the sacrifice,’’ Mr Bennett said.
Sub-branch president John Hollowood read The Ode of Remembrance, wreaths were laid, and the national anthem sung.
Mr Bennett said he was pleased with this year’s attendance but expected next year to be bigger for the 100th anniversary.
‘‘It will be a special event,’’ he said.