Air of joy as town pays its respects

PERHAPS it was the warm autumn sun or the crisp blue skies that did it, but the mood at Yarrawonga’s Anzac Day service was almost one of celebration.

And why not? The day is, after all, just as much about remembering the camaraderie and good times, as paying tribute.

Up to 600 onlookers gathered around the war memorial, soft happy chatter filling the air as they waited for the march to start.

As the clock on Yarrawonga’s town hall struck 11am, the drums and bagpipes from the Wangaratta Pipe Band began to sound.

There was cheering and applause, while children and grandchildren swelled with pride, as the first of the servicemen made their way down Piper Street.

First were the Diggers, in a parade of pristine vintage cars, followed by their fellow veterans and servicepeople on foot, as well as contingents from local schools.

The parade master called the marchers to halt, and their army training shone through as they stopped at attention as one — old habits die hard it seems.

Lieutenant David Catterall — who had two postings in Wodonga — addressed the crowd, making an impassioned plea for the young to learn all they could about the Anzacs and their legacy.

“It’s not just about the big bangs and the war,” he said.

“It’s about how everyone comes together as a team to achieve what we need to achieve; it’s about the camaraderie and the sacrifice.”

Yarrawonga’s Scott Ansell would attest to that; the former soldier usually attends the service in Melbourne, where he can catch up with the mates he served alongside in Somalia and East Timor, though it was nice to be home this time.

Mr Ansell wore his own medals and those of his great-grandfather and grandfather, who served in World War I and II respectively.

He said that shared knowledge of war was “a pretty big bond”.

“This is a lucky country we have, and we wouldn’t have what we do today without their efforts,” he said.

It was also a family affair for Yarrawonga’s Bryan Milne, 91, whose granddaughter Kylie Thitchner and great-grandchildren Cameron and Estelle joined him.

Mr Milne served in World War II in the air force while Mrs Thitchner and her husband Paul were also in the armed forces.

“It’s always something we look forward to each year,” she said.