Moving Mooloolaba service marks Gallipoli centenary
ONE hundred years after the Anzac legend was birthed on the shores of Gallipoli, thousands gathered on a Sunshine Coast beach to see surfboats rowers raise their oars in honour.
The spirit of Australia was evident in the bumper to bumper traffic on the roads leading to Mooloolaba Beach at 4.20am before the 5am service.
Veteran and lifesaving identity Hayden Kenny said he had never seen such a huge crowd pack the dawn service in front of the Mooloolaba Surf Club.
While crowds of up to 3000 had been in previous years, the crowd would have been more like over 5000.
"It's here. You can certainly feel the spirit of Australia,'' Mr Kenny said.
Bleary-eyed children, many securing a vantage point on their father's shoulders, watched as a dozen surfboats were rowed out to lay wreaths in honour of the fallen.
After a welcome address from Ian Atkinson, Shelley Janssen started proceedings with a Maori spiritual call of welcome uniting ancestors and the living.
A single horseman from the Light Horse Brigade became another focal point in front of the crowd.
The flash of cameras in the pre-dawn dark continued to spook the horse until it eventually threw the rider from its back.
It wasn't long, however, before the horse was eventually restrained and remounted.
Guest speaker Major Peter Rogers, DFC, Rtd, spoke of the proud service history of Mooloolaba Surf Club veterans, including past president Percy Jakeman, who served in the 42nd Brigade.
Percy, who was just five feet five inches tall, served on the Western Front, after his unit first disembarked at Plymouth, England in October, 1916. He was wounded in action in France while serving with the first Australian Imperial Forces.
After returning to Australia to live in Buderim and open a business in Mooloolaba, he was president of the surf club for 25 years before he passed away in 1951.
Major Rogers said the surfboats in the Mooloolaba ceremony were the same shape as those used to bring Anzacs to the shores of Gallipoli.
"All similarity ends there though.
"At Anzac Cove on this day 100 years ago the boats were towed to within 100 metres of the beach and rowed from there until heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and artillery shrapnel from above.
"The boats had 25 men in each and often there were only half that number when they reached the sand.''
A doctor's diary from the troopship told of the carnage on that day.
By lunchtime there had been 150 wounded aboard.
Between 3pm and 8pm, 140 an hour were being taken on the ship.
"The very worst cases, unconscious and dying, were simply placed on a hatch and covered with a blanket.''
"Some of the wounds were terrible. A large portion of the head blown away,'' the doctor recorded.
"Huge wounds in the fleshy portion of the body.
"A good portion shot through the abdomen and lung wounds were quite common.''
Such imagery provided plenty to reflect upon as the crowd was taken through a montage of music marking each of the conflicts that Australia and New Zealand troops have fought in.
As the sounds of the choppers of the Vietnam era roared over the PA many looked to the sky looking for the real thing.
The ode, the last post and a minute silence followed as surf boat crews behind the break layed wreaths on the water.
Mooloolaba certainly remembered.