A retired Royal Australian Navy (RAN) with ten years service between 1989-2000, I was a Quartermaster gunner with active service with United Nations Integrated Task Force (UNITAF), as a peacekeeper, Mogadishu City, Somalia 1993. On return to Australia I changed branch to engineering (thought I might live a little longer). I’m a member of the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Veterans Association (APPVA; www.peacekeepers.asn.au), and also Vice-President of the Association Internationale des Soldats de la Paix, (AISP/SPIA; www.aisp.fr/eng), based in Lyon. I came to South France for a holiday six years ago from London, where I was a construction projects manager, and stayed on as a yacht chief engineer officer.
Last year when I realised I wouldn’t able to be in Oz for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day on April 25th, I went to Bullecourt, Northern France, where despite terrible windy, wet winter conditions, there was an incredibly moving turnout not only from Australians from far and wide, but also from the local (many elderly) folks to pay their respects to our (French/Australian/NZ) honoured dead.
The suggestion to organise ANZAC services in Antibes came over beers with some Irish, American and English mates. ANZAC Day is not just about Aussies and Kiwis; the British lost the greater number of soldiers during the First World War from these nations. The birth of a “national consciousness” came about when soldiers from Australia and New Zealand fought their way across the trenches during the Gallipoli Campaign in the Ottoman Empire between April 25 1915 and January 9 1916, during the First World War. For Aussies and Kiwis, it’s the one day of the year where we remember our nations’ heritage, the legacy from our forebears, where we come from, why we are different from other nations and the reason why we are damn good at what we do when we put our minds to the task.
With permission from the mairie in Antibes, I’m currently organising the first official local ANZAC Day ceremony. There will be two services on April 25th: a 40-minute dawn service commencing at 5am and the main hour-long service starts at 11am. Refreshments will be available after each ceremony at the Hop Store, Antibes.
I’m calling on all Aussies and Kiwis to please attend. I would encourage yacht captains, to release their crews where possible so that they may attend these important services and pay tribute to their nations. I also ask the general public to show their support to the first official ANZAC Day services on the Cote d’Azur – an important milestone for both and to Further and above all, to enable continuity of the core principles and values that makes France, Australia, New Zealand and Brittan, great nations. Lest we forget.