March past at the Australian War Memorial (Photo – Suzy Baines)
2011 CANBERRA REUNION REPORT
Our reunion was a roaring success but marred by the change of venues within the hotel. Fortunately us old soldiers and partners didn’t let that put us off enjoying ourselves. Thankfully the Canberra weather was kind to us so we had no complaints in that regard.
Friday’s Meet and Greet was attended by 100, including our only officer Gary Downs, and the final group leaving for bed approx 3.30am Saturday. No names no pack drill !!
Saturday’s Dinner Dance commenced at 6.00pm and saw 105 guys and girls roll up in all their finery. The highlight for the ladies was being presented, on arrival, with a box of Cadburys Roses chocolates and a corsage by young Kylie Flanagan, Tony’s niece from Eden NSW. Not to be out done the guys were presented with a reunion cap and stubby cooler.
Unfortunately, Tony’s brother Dennis has been ill and wasn’t well enough to play our Dinner Music at this reunion as he has done in the past. The music for the evening was provided by a Wagga Wagga band, “ILL COMMUNICATION”, and all but one song had the dance floor occupied. The band, by request, had learnt “I was only 19” and “We gotta get out of this place” and Alexandra Tatt, the female vocalist, did excellent covers of Stevie Nicks, from Fleetwood Mac. The only complaint being a little loud at times but the majority loved it.
Tony presented to Bob Nash, on behalf of Les Wilkinson, a framed certificate of thanks for all Les’s work in organizing the Battle of Coral/Balmoral reunion for the OFP members that were at the Battle, as well his part in the Unit Plaque at the Australian War Memorial and the Army Combat Badge, which a lot of our members have now received.
The other highlight was our first timers, Jim and Ros Golding, attendance and of course our little mate from the USA, Greg Quinlan, managed to get back to Australia to be with us once again.
The Sunday tour of Canberra started at 9.00am and included Old Parliament House, Parliament House, where we had lunch, then onto the National Gallery for a spot of culture, before winding our way home via a short tour of the Overseas Embassy buildings, onto Anzac Parade, to view all the War Memorials (with a group photo at the Vietnam Memorial) then onto Mount Ainslie for a panorama view of Canberra and then home. At 7.00pm we all met for dinner and most were in bed by 11.00pm ready for our big day (ANZAC DAY).
A bus load of reunion attendees attended the Dawn Service then back to the hotel for breakfast kindly put on free for the Vets. At 9.00am we again mounted the buses for the Australian War Memorial and the ANZAC DAY march. With our banner held aloft by Peter McFarlane and Laurie Burt, original members of the unit in 1966, we were proudly led by Lawrie O’Neill, our senior member, who led 52 very proud and smart looking vets all wearing the reunion caps. We marched onto the parade ground in front of the War Memorial with our very excited ladies (we had our own cheer squad) encouraging us on from the front row seats in the grandstands, provided by the Australian War Memorial for this event in Canberra. Seating for our ladies has never been provided at past reunions. After the parade it was back to the hotel for lunch and a few deserved drinks.
Tuesday we mounted the buses again for the Australian War Memorial for our Unit Plaque Ceremony which was very moving. Our widow, Amy Chambers, was asked to place a poppy on the plaque and did so willingly with a tear in her eye. Amy has been a regular attendee since her husband Jack passed away. In a short address Bob Nash advised that this special ceremony marks the conclusion of our Unit Plaque’s journey to its final, and permanent, place of honour in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. He went on to say that this Unit Plaque represents an acknowledgement of the fine service our Unit and Members rendered during the Vietnam conflict and that we should all stand tall and be proud of this service.
It was rather an emotional moment for Mike Grosse when he discovered that the Unit Plaque next to ours was the unit his father had served with in World War Two. How do you explain that one? After the service we had a short tour of the Memorial, and for those who didn’t notice, the OFP is represented by a photo of Graeme Patzel in a machinegun pit at Fire Support Base Coral at the Coral/Balmoral display.
Back to the hotel for farewell nibbles and drinks where to everyone’s surprise VEGAS FEVER supplied us with fantastic dance music for two hours. Afterwards they sold their CDs to those who were interested and there were many who were.
In a nutshell the Reunion, as those in the past, was a success and to still be getting new attendees twelve years after we started is amazing. For those of you who haven’t been to one and are thinking about it, the next OFP Reunion is in DARWIN 2013. Full details will be advised later this year.
DATE AND DETAILS OF OUR REUNION
Friday 22 April 2011 – Meet & Greet (Evening)
Saturday 23 April 2011 – Free Day to do your own thing – Reunion Dinner (Evening)
Sunday 24 April 2011 – Coach Tour of Canberra
Monday 25 April – ANZAC DAY
Tuesday 26 – Unit Plaque ceremony at AWM – Farewell drinks (Final Day)
Denis & Jenny BLAKEY – Doug & Pam BLATCH – Laurie BURT – John & Astrid BUTTIFANT – Col & Margaret BURROWES – Ron & Annette CAREY – Amy CHAMBERS & Suzie BAINES (Guest) – Geoff & Cheryl CONWAY – Harry & Kath COUPER – Michael & Jane CURTIS — Bill & Margaret DOBSON – Garry DOWNS & Corrine PHILLIPS -Robbie & Jenny DUNCAN – Garrick & Janise EVANS – Kevin & Suzie EVORALL – John FARAM – Lou & Rhonda FATONE – Tony FLANAGAN – George & Rhonda FOSTER – Jim & Ros GOLDING – Mike & Susanne GROSSE – Arthur & Carmen HARTWIG – John & Marisa HEINZE – Harry & Fran IND – Ray & Robyn JESSEN – Jim & Valerie LING – Laurie & Ann MANNA – Jim & Val McINTOSH -Ian & Elaine McLEAN – Peter McFARLANE – Ron & Dot MEPPOM – Bob & Christine NASH — Lawrie & Val O’NEILL – John & Pam PADOVAN – Lloyd & Janice PARSLOW — Rick PAXTON – David & Mairi PEAK – Noel & Colleen PEUT – Greg QUINLAN – John & Colleen REDMAN – Ron & Mary-Anne ROGERS – Rusty & Sue ROWLANDS – Brian & Peg RUTLEDGE – Frank & Lynette SCOGLIO — Neville & Gloria SHAW – Phil & Lyn SHEPHERD – Richard & Sue SMITH – Des SURTEES – John & Christine SYMONS – Ian & Libby TASKER – Peter & Wendy VAN DER WEL – Vic & Cheryl ZABENKO – Graham & Janice ROSS (Guests) – Ray & Katrina MULLIGAN (Guests) – Mick SPORN (Guest)