Ahead of Anzac Day commemorations, two Royal Australian Navy members revisited their family’s history of service on the Western Front, France, during World War I.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) contingent in France toured battlefields and memorials dedicated to those who fought and died there.
Fleet Command Senior Chaplain Murray Lund spoke of his family connection while at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.
“My great-uncle Private Reuben Wood was a Lewis machine gunner, and served further north than this location on the Western Front,” Senior Chaplain Lund said.
“He was wounded in battle, repatriated to London, recuperated and then returned to the Western Front.
“He survived the war and returned to Australia but was never one to talk much about his experiences.”
Touring sites in the region – including Australia’s 1st Division Memorial, Thiepval and Adelaide War Cemeteries – gave Senior Chaplain Lund pause for reflection.
“As I walk through the cemetery here at Villers-Bretonneux, I get a sense of the great sacrifice that a small, young nation like Australia made to be here,” he said.
Petty Officer Gordon Orr, a member of the Royal Australian Navy Band, also spoke of his appreciation for his grandfather’s generation.
“My grandfather fought on the Western Front with the Royal Irish Fusiliers,” Petty Officer Orr said.
“To me it’s a great privilege to come here and respect those who fought before us and reflect on the hardships they went through.”
The ADF contingent did rigorous rehearsal sessions at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux ahead of Anzac Day commemorations.
At the Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux, and morning services in two towns, they represented Australia to attendees and television audiences around the world.
Interviewed prior to Anzac Day, Senior Chaplain Lund, Fleet Command Chaplain, outlined his role.
“I am travelling with a contingent from Australia’s Federation Guard and the Royal Australian Navy Band for the commemoration of Anzac Day,” he said.
“On the day, I will be leading the commemoration in prayer both for remembrance and peace.”
Petty Officer Orr said it would be a moving day.
“I think it’s going to be a very solemn and emotional service, especially with the music and the choirs,” he said.
“I don’t think there will be a dry eye in the house.”