When Anzac Day comes each year we pause to remember the servicemen and women who lost their lives defending Australia. It is also a time to pause and think about those who have and are currently serving our country across the world.
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On 25 April 1915 the Anzacs waded ashore into enemy gunfire on a narrow strip of Turkish beach. We honour the heroism and sacrifice made on those broken and rugged shores of a foreign country. We bow our heads in solemn reverence to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that day and throughout the Great War as well in all the conflicts that have followed.
The small towns of the North Coast region grieved for the loss of so many fine young Australians during the Great War which raged from 1914-1918.
One family whose grief is unimaginable is the story of the Scottish born Gilvear family of Glass House Mountains on the Sunshine Coast. Before war was declared, Thomas Gilvear ran a banana farm with his wife Christina and six older sons. In May 1916, he signed up at the age of 43 with six of his sons and they went on to fight at the front.
Christina cared for the remaining four children and managed the farm. The depth of sorrow felt by Christina as she received telegrams with the news that three of her sons had been killed on the battlefields of France remained with her for the remainder of her life. Her husband, Private Thomas Gilvear, requested a discharge from the army so that he could be with his wife and work the farm. On July 9, 1918, he received a letter from General Birdwood advising that due to the loss of his sons he was approved to return to Australia. The General noted that Thomas Gilvear had suffered more than his fair share for his country.
Local First Nations man Trooper Horace Dalton, then aged 19, gained his parent’s permission and enlisted in early 1918 and embarked for active service overseas aboard the troop ship “Port Sydney”.
An experienced horseman Trooper Dalton was assigned to 11th Light Horse Regiment encamped near the village of Zgarta, Libya.
Well liked in the Caloundra and Beerwah community, Horace was much respected by all who knew him. A full military funeral was held for Trooper Horace Dalton in 2012 many years after his death.
Tom Lillingstone married Stella Booth days before he went to the Great War. He was killed in action, at age 34, during the Battle of Passchendaele at Broodseinde Ridge in Belgium, near the French Border on October 5, 1917. An estimated 36,000 Australians were killed during an eight-week period.
Private Lillingstone was a member of the 41st Battalion and went to war as a medic where he died on the front line, helping and healing his fellow soldiers. His body was never recovered.
While at home Soldiers’ Comforts Funds evolved and worked on care packs to help make the soldiers more comfortable at the front. Women met in homes and halls to sew and knit socks and other garments as well as create hampers for the troops overseas. Many women and girls also wrote letters to their loved ones and others.
Patriotic Funds were set up to help support the dependents of those who had volunteered and fundraising auctions, concerts and markets were held.
Red Cross groups were established or strengthened at this time and also assisted with fundraising efforts.
The instability created in Europe by the First World War (1914-1918) set the stage for another international conflict – World War II – which broke out two decades later and would prove even more devastating and again the young men and women of the region answered the call to arm.
In September 1940 a “Win the War” rally was held in Nambour. One pledge taken by over 400 people attending “Vowed that from this night on, my two hands, my eyes, my mind, my heart, shall work, see, think, and beat alone for this – My Country”
Tens of thousands of troops trained throughout the North Coast region. With troop trains passing through, soldier camps, MPs stationed at the main intersection ‘Fiveways’ Landsborough, the Bribie Island Fortifications, Military Jetty at Golden Beach and restricted zones almost all residents of the Sunshine Coast region were involved in the war in some way.
The formidable Australian Army commandos carried out training on Fraser Island which was chosen due to isolation and a tough training environment.
The men of the 61st Battalion, known as the Cameron Highlanders, trained throughout the region. Caboolture, Beerburrum, Landsborough, Woombye, Nambour, Yandina and Glass House Mountains all saw soldiers such as these in the country towns. Previously the military recruited along regional lines and the Sunshine Coast proudly recruited 2/16th Battalion from the Maroochydore and Buderim district.
For the defence of the Sunshine Coast, the 21st Brigade was given the task of preparing to resist enemy movements for road and railway in the vicinity of Yandina, Maroochydore and Caloundra areas. The 2/16th Battalion had prepared the protection of Buderim and the beach defences of Maroochydore and Mooloolaba.
Even the American Marines conducted training for amphibious warfare in Pumicestone Passage on Toorbul Point, while areas such as Conondale, Yandina and the Blackall Ranges were used for jungle warfare training by the Australian Brigades during the transition from the Middle East to the operations in Papua.
In March 1941 record crowds of over 5,000 filled every vantage point to welcome a contingent of American sailors who marched from Mitchell Street corner into Currie Street. Never in the history of Nambour had there been scenes of such enthusiasm.
There are many memorials across the Coast symbolising how war has touched our community but the most enduring are the memories living within families who still grieve the loss of a loved one and whose memories are enshrined in the photographs, letters and stories retold.
Lest We Forget
Words courtesy of the Heritage Library staff.