A new memorial to Australian war animals was unveiled at this year’s Narooma Anzac Day ceremony with 100-year-old George Findley was given the honour of doing the official unveiling by the Narooma RSL.
The memorial is believed to be the first of its kind in NSW, although there are others in Canberra and Queensland.
Narooma RSL sub-branch president Paul Naylor said the memorial came about after the sub-branch began communicating with Nigel Allsopp, who advocates for Australia’s war animals.
Mr Naylor in his Anzac Day speech said more than 8 million animals perished or wounded on both sides of the conflict on World War I alone, with millions more killed in World War II. This included horses, mules, dogs and pigeons. In more recent times Coalition forces in Iraq used pigeons to as chemical warfare detectors.
“Perhaps next Memorial Day when we think of all our soldiers who gave their lives in war, please pause a thought for the four-legged heroes that fought and died alongside them,” Mr Naylor said. “Hopefully one day we can stop can not only stop sending our sons and daughters to war but our pets too.”
The Narooma RSL has decided to donate all profits from next year’s Red Poppy Ball to the Canine Carers group, which looks after dogs returning from Australia’s campaigns overseas, as they allegedly receive no assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said.
Mr Findley, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday at the IRT retirement village, was swamped with well wishes and people wanting a photo with him after the service.
“It certainly was an honour to do this and very unexpected actually,” he said.
Members of the Eurobodalla branch also laid wreaths and paid tribute to the fallen animals at the new memorial, which is located at the base of the fountain at the RSL memorial garden. The lights will also be turned from red to purple in honour of the animals.
The Narooma Anzac Day ceremony began with the march from the visitor centre to Club Narooma, where the Narooma Community Choir was set up alongside singing students from Narooma Public School.
A large number of wreaths were then laid the War Memorial by various community groups, while a Navy AS350 Squirrel helicopter from 723 Squadron, based at HMAS Albatross, flew over Narooma just after 11am thanks to the Eurobodalla and Far South Coast National Servicemen’s Association.
Mr Naylor said this one was best attended ceremonies he could recall with an estimated 600 people attending the dawn service at Narooma alone.
“It’s been tremendous and the dawn service was one of the biggest I have seen and it was nice to see so many young people here today,” he said.