ONE of “Albury’s Own”, Jim Henderson, was humbled but thrilled yesterday when a plaque was unveiled in honour of the 2/23 Infantry Battalion in Canberra.
The 98-year-old was the oldest of four ex-soldiers to witness the event at the Australian War Memorial.
“It was entirely emotional of course,” he said.
“It brings back wonderful memories too, as well as somewhat unreal ones.”
It was about 12 months ago that Border military historian Graham Docksey realised there was no plaque honouring the batallion in Canberra.
“I had discovered that there’s a plaque for the 2/24th at the Australian War Memorial but not for the 2/23rd,” he said.
“They were sister batallions of the same brigade.”
Mr Docksey spoke to the memorial about how to get a plaque, then applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for funding.
“There’s very, very few of the members alive today and this is perhaps the last opportunity to recognise the men of the batallion,” Mr Docksey said.
“They’re frail, one of them is in a wheelchair, but they’ve made the effort to be here.”
Mr Henderson was joined by fellow 2/23rd members Don Tibbits, Ken Kearney and Roy Bryant, along with descendants and Albury mayor Alice Glachan.
The last Border-based member of the 2/23rd, Ken Bartel, who lives in Wodonga, was unable to attend.
“They looked after us well in Albury,” Mr Henderson recalled of his days spent in training on the Border.
Australian War Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson said the 2/23rd was in many ways the story of Albury, “but it’s also the story of Australia”.
“It’s extremely important that we don’t settle for the broad strokes of history and that we don’t ever in neglectful ignorance allow the individual sacrifices made in our name to be forgotten,” he said.
Mr Henderson, a Canberra resident, said it was a great honour to represent his comrades.
“There’s only a few of us here today but a lot more of us are still left,” he said.
“It won’t be long though before we’re all gone.”