DAWN broke on a clear and crisp morning in Wodonga, as RSL sub-branch president Kevyn Williams described the landing of three platoons of the leading company of the 7th Battalion on the shores at Gallipoli, 99 years ago.
“As the lead boat, under the command of Captain Bert Layh entered the field of fire, five out of six rowers were shot but others took the oars, and they pushed on.
“The boat was scraping the shingle when, as Captain Layh threw himself into the water beside it, he was shot through the hip.
“As he turned to call his men forward, he was again shot in the leg.
“With the survivors, he scrambled towards the little grass-tufted sand hummocks fringing the beach, and they lay low behind them.
“Of the 140 men in the four boats, only three officers and 36 men, many wounded, made the safety of the hummocks, the rest lay dead or dying behind them.”
Click on the video below to see the Wodonga dawn service at the cenotaph in Woodland Grove. (iPhone users go to Video tab in Menu.)
An estimated crowd of 1500 people gathered in Woodland Grove yesterday morning to pay tribute to the Anzacs and all of those who had paid the supreme sacrifice while serving Australia in times of war.
Piper Doug McRae and drummer Milton Mann accompanied the catafalque party as it was mounted before chaplain Father Ben Hall offered prayers for the fallen, for peace and for those who continued to suffer as a result of war.
The laying of wreaths by Mr Williams on behalf of the RSL and by Sgt Ellen Greig on behalf of the Australian Army was followed by the Ode, the Last Post by bugler Sgt Ross Draper and a benediction offered by Father Hall as the service came to a close.
Veterans, service personnel, parents, grandparents and children of all ages filled Woodland Grove to capacity, delighting Mr Williams, who described the crowd as “phenomenal”.
“It gets bigger every year. There is so much about Anzac Day out there that people are listening to or reading in the papers and they want to be part of it,” he said.
“The kids want to march and be part of it.
“They will carry it through and remember it for the rest of their lives.
“It’s now the kids who are telling their parents they want to go to the dawn service.”
Mr Williams said over several decades the RSL had refined its planning for the commemorations in Wodonga, ensuring the services ran smoothly and encouraged public participation.
He said that same planning would be important as the RSL sub-branches looked ahead to the Anzac centenary commemorations next year.