While Anzac Day is traditionally a very busy time for HMAS Albatross, in Nowra, New South Wales, the centenary year has brought an increase in requests for catafalque parties, honour guards, speakers.
Navy members represent the service at a range of events along the entire south coast and Southern Highlands from Moruya to Mittagong, Batemans Bay to Bundanoon, Kangaroo Valley to Kiama and everywhere in between. Personnel will also be participating in events at Jindabyne, Young, Caloundra and Broken Hill.
The task of coordinating all these requests comes to the base ceremonial team, led by Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Daniel 'Speedy' MacQueen.
“We have on 23 engagements on Anzac Day alone,” Chief Petty Officer MacQueen said.
“I believe this would be one of the largest number of ceremonial commitments for a military base in Australia.
“These requests aren’t just for ceremonies on the 25th, throughout April we’re involved in another 40 community events at schools, churches and aged care facilities.
“My crew have been scheduling events and preparing for this day for four months now - very early on we realised we were going to need a bigger whiteboard.”
Despite this week’s torrential rain, Chief Petty Officer MacQueen’s intensive training schedule went ahead.
“While most members of the general public don’t notice subtle mistakes I know that returned servicemen keep a very close eye on us and we always want to get it right for them, so we’ve been focusing on getting every one up to speed and fine tuning drills.
“Different roles require different drills and we’re training catafalque parties, lifebuoy bearers, the colour parties who will be parading the Australian White Ensign, there are 197 key positions and that doesn’t include personnel in platoons."
Chief Petty Officer MacQueen's Anzac Day will start at the Greenwell Point Dawn service, he will then take on the role of Parade Marshall at Bomaderry which will be followed by a quick trip into Nowra for the main march.
“In my 19 years in the Navy this is the biggest day I’ve had to prepare for but we’ve been out with all key personnel, 'reccied' locations and know the lay of the land and I can confidently say we’re ready to go and I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s been 100 years since those boys went ashore at Gallipoli and I know that when they play Last Post that will bring it all home for me. That will be my time to remember them and all they did.“
After months of juggling logistics, scheduling and training Chief Petty Officer MacQueen's plans for the rest of Anzac Day involve a lot of listening.
“For me Anzac Day is about sitting down with some of the old diggers, listening to their stories and making sure those stories aren’t lost, that they’re handed down from one generation to the next and it’s important for me to have that opportunity to say thank you and well done."