Anzac plan for Avenel underway

By David Rak

Preparations are under way for Avenel RSL Sub-Branch to host a 2020 Anzac Day event to mark 100 years since the unveiling of the Great War monument in the town.

A special program is planned to honour all men and women who have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations, but will pay special tribute to WWI-enlisted, Avenel-born soldiers.

The event will include South African born guest speaker Tony Macquet MMM (Military Merit Medal).

Mr Macquet started his military career as a ballotee, completing his basic infantry training and section leaders courses in Potchefstroom and Oudtshoorn and wrapping up his national service commitment in 1966.

He continued his national service as a volunteer for nearly 20 years, culminating as a support company commander with the Transvaal Scottish Regiment.

He was then instrumental in the establishment of South African veteran organisations, both with Australia and internationally, and is currently the chairman of the international body, SAMVOINT, which today boasts a membership of 1891.

Mr Macquet will make a presentation about a famed fellow soldier and countryman, Brigadier General John Robinson Royston, fondly dubbed “Galloping Jack” by the Australian soldiers who served under his command in WWI.

Royston fought alongside many Australians during WWI and his leadership style and command was respected by Australians, with Royston receiving a hero welcome when, as a guest of the Eighth Light Horse, he visited Australia in 1934 during centenary celebrations.

On October 11, 1934 he passed through Avenel and visited Shepparton as a guest of the Returned Soldiers of the Goulburn Valley, with a dinner held at the Shepparton Hotel in his honour.

Avenel has its own strong connection with South Africa during war time.

Private Michael William Costigan served three months with the Imperial Bushmen (Boer War) South Africa. He then enlisted in October 1914 for WWI, 14th Battalion, France.

Corporal Henry Charles Lewis served 18 months in South Africa. He then enlisted in July 1915 for WWI, 4th Battalion, France and Private Thomas Vearing served Victorian Mounted Rifles and Light Horse Africa. He then enlisted in June 1917 for WWI, 4th Light Horse.

A daughter of one of the pioneers of Avenel, Solomon Rawson, gained distinction from her military nursing services in South Africa.

Born in Avenel in 1855 Sister Marianne Rawson nursed Australian and South African injured and ill men during the Boer War in primitive and trying conditions.

Sister Rawson was selected as Lady Superintendent of the 10 Victorian nurses that accompanied the Third Victorian Bushman’s Contingent and served in South Africa.

She was one of three nurses from the Boer War conflict to be a recipient of the Royal Red Cross - awarded for exceptional services in military nursing.

Within a month of the start of WWI, Sister Rawson was invited to return to Avenel and share her insights into war and what support should be given to the soldiers.

The founder of the Australian Red Cross and also wife of the Governor General Sir Ronald Ferguson, Lady Helen Munro Ferguson had also sought advice from Sister Rawson as to what was the most suitable clothing for men going to the Great War, and suitable gifts for the diggers.

Mr Macquet said he believed Anzac Day gave foreign veterans the opportunity to pay their respects and to acknowledge the amazing spirit and success of the ANZACs and the ADF.

“To be asked to represent South African servicemen at Avenel, and to highlight the amazing service of another South African is an absolute honour,” he said.

“It is very much in keeping with our organisation’s determination to be worthy citizens and contribute positively to our adopted home, Australia.”

Avenel RSL Sub-branch encourages and welcomes current and former serving defence personnel, family members who have ancestors from Avenel and district enlisted in WWI, and the general public to attend the Avenel 2020 ANZAC Day event.

The event will include not only special mention of the role horses played in WWI, but also representatives from the 20th Light Horse VMR Shepparton.

A list is in preparation of Avenel and district-born WWI soldiers to commemorate the day.

Everyone is encouraged to share stories and memorabilia for this event by taking photographs for public display.

For more information, contact Joyce White on 5796 2398.