(Photo – Wynnum Manly Historical Society. Manly Memorial 1922.)
On winding down Ferguson Street towards Manly Harbour Village business precinct, one is greeted by the sign in Richard Russel Memorial Park which says ‘Lest we Forget’. If the turn out at the Manly Lota RSL ANZAC Day services this year is any indication, the community of Manly Lota and its surrounds have surely not forgotten. With the commemoration of the landing at Gallipoli 102 years ago, crowds of veterans, community organisations, school groups, families and interested residents turned up in record numbers for both the dawn and 8am services. The participants in the 8 am march itself numbered over a thousand. There are now no living survivors of World War 1 and the numbers from later conflicts are diminishing. The sense of their sacrifice and the debt we owe them, however, is not.
This was not a day of carnival fun, yet the crowd was full of children. It was not a day of entertainment and food stalls, yet several thousand felt the need to be there. It was not an event staged at what would seem a convenient time, yet over a thousand attended the 4.15 am service, and many thousand more the 8 am.
It was not a festive occasion, but nor was it a sad one. It was one which evoked many things: sorrow, mateship, reflection and gratitude. But perhaps the greatest was pride. Pride in the valour of those who went to war, never to return; pride in those who did return and dealt with the legacy of what they had been part of. But there was another sense of pride: Pride in being part of a community that each year comes together to ensure that those who serve, and continue to serve will never be forgotten.