A beautiful sunny Autumn day in Perth was welcomed for our inaugural Service.
The Service was held, firstly to remember our fallen soldiers from the many wars that South Africa has been involved in but more specifically from the Border War (1966 to 1989). And secondly, to pay homage to Australia, our new home where we have been accepted with open arms.
Today is the Sunday closest to the ‘old Republic Day’ traditionally celebrated on the 31st May and felt that we needed to balance the spiritual aspects as well. I have vivid memories of my time in the SADF where every day was started with a bible reading and a prayer. I have also been privileged to be invited to the British Airborne Forces Service for the last few years, to commemorate the Battle of Arnhem, and had the opportunity to introduce some aspects of their Service.
We reached out to the Trinity Uniting Church where an Afrikaans service is held on the last Sunday of each month, which some of our members attend. Trinity, built in 1865, is a beautiful traditional brick church right in the heart of the City. Reverend Dr Herman Nienaber is South African and this afforded us the opportunity to build a bridge to his congregation. We are also lucky to have our own Reverend John Maddocks (ex-44 Parachute Brigade), who is a recently ordained priest in the Anglican Church.
We planned the Service to be bilingual and have both of them share, in what turned out to be quite a moving ‘military-themed’ service. We also invited our friends from the Rhodesian Services Association to attend.
Veterans dressed in their Samvoa No 1’s did not disappoint with all of them looking extremely ‘paraat’. Standing outside the church at 10:25, one could hear the strains of the bagpipes being played from inside the church by Captain Doug Gillespie and his son, Cadet L/Corporal Jack Gillespie dressed in their full Scottish regalia. Doug is a Scotsman and did his service in the British Parachute Regiment.
The Samvoa and Rhodesian standard bearers (Ian Higley and Doug Riddle respectively) carried the standards at a slow march while the pipers played Amazing Grace. Rev John Maddocks did the dedication of the Standards.
It turned out to be a moving Service, with a personal story conveyed by Rev Nienaber about the effects of the Second World War on a member of his own family, as well as the impact of Mkonto We Sizwe’s Amanzimtoti bombing in 1985.
The key message is that “one day there will be No More War”, but although the effects of war are terrible, what would the world look like today if there was no resistance, for example the German onslaught in 1939 or the Soviets during the cold war. We needed soldiers that were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice so that people could sleep peacefully at night.
The main reading was from The Gospel of St John, chapter 15:13 – “Greater love has no-one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
The readings from the scripture were done by Veterans Garth Pienaar and Ben Opperman.
Veteran Dave Stevenson recited The Ode followed by Cadet L/Corporal Jack Gillespie playing The Last Post on the bugle, and a minute’s silence and then the playing of The Reveille.
The standard bearers then collected the banners from Rev John Maddocks before marching out of the church, again to the strains of the bagpipes.
The formal Service ended with a stirring solo by “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.
The veterans then formed up outside the Church, standing to attention to pay respects to the victims of the recent Manchester Bombing, and the victims of the Coptic Church massacre in Egypt (April 2017) – followed by The Last Post.
The event was concluded by the bagpipes and followed by an informal get together in the Church Hall for refreshments laid on by the team of volunteers from the Church.
Reverend Nienaber has asked us to make this an annual event, and we will take him up on the offer!
Eendracht Maakt Magt (Unity is Strength)