Anzac spirit in the air

LOOK TO THE SKIES: A Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon cruises at low altitude over Mount Gambier during Sunday's Anzac Day march. Picture: EDWARD SRPCIC

By Brett Kennedy

THE return of Mount Gambier’s traditional Anzac Day parade was strongly supported by residents who lined Commercial Street to pay their respects, treated to an impressive flyover by a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon.

The city’s oldest World War II veteran and airman – 101-year-old Jack Hopgood – led the procession down the city’s main thoroughfare, a fitting touch as the RAAF marks its centenary in 2021.

Residents who had gathered to watch the parade did not have to wait a minute past 10.25am – the scheduled flyover time – with the maritime patrol aircraft cruising low across the cityscape.

At the mid-morning service, Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin highlight the importance of Anzac Day to the nation, stating the Anzac values of loyalty, selflessness and courage would help carry on the spirit of the Anzacs.

Royal Australian Navy captain Matthew Richie – a special guest in the Blue Lake city over the Anzac Day weekend – retold the story of Victoria Cross recipient Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, who posthumously received the honour on December 1 last year, 78 years since the day he died death.

Capt Richie said Teddy was the first Royal Australian Navy member to receive the nation’s highest award for valour.

Teddy Sheean lost his life on December 1, 1942 while serving on HMAS Armidale, which was attacked by no less than 13 Japanese aircraft.

As the corvette listed heavily to port and the order was given to abandon ship, with enemy aircraft gunning down Australian service people in the water.

Teddy Sheean – already wounded – returned to his gun station and shot down one aircraft and damaged others to protect those in the water, sinking with the vessel.

“Only 49 of the 149 men who had been onboard survived the sinking and the ensuing days in life rafts,” Capt Richie recalled.

Many of these men credited their lives to Sheean, one man who did all that was possible to save his ship mates.

“Teddy Sheean was 18 years old.”