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Edward Willis

Opening of the Dare Memorial Pool and Resting Place - 13 April 1969

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The National Archives of Australia (NAA) is a marvellous resource for family historians including members and supporters of the Doublereds seeking service and other official records for their research.  For example, a recent search of the NAA database retrieved a set of 17 photos taken at the opening of the Dare Memorial Pool and Resting Place on 13 April 1969.  One of the photos showing the group of 2/2 veterans who made the journey to the then Portuguese Timor for the opening is well known and has been reproduced in several publications, including Cyril Ayris’ ‘All the Bull’s men’ (p.490-491) but all the other photos may not have been seen for some time, if at all.  The photos are high quality and very sharp and show the Portuguese and Australian dignitaries involved in the opening ceremony, Timorese drummers and dancers, local villagers looking on and the memorial plaque.

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The photos can be well complemented by reading Col Doig’s account of the opening ceremony given in his history of the 2/2 Commando Association ‘A great fraternity’ (pp.87-89).  The full text of his account follows in this post:

Now to return to the events of Sunday the 13th.  We were warned to be ready to leave our hotels. by 10 a.m. to go to the venue of our Memorial and prepare for the ceremony.  We boarded a variety of vehicles, all four-wheel drive as this is the only type which can climb to the mountain on which the Resting Place is situated.  A brief stop at the Australian Consulate then on to the winding mountain road with drivers belting along in a cloud of dust, blowing horns practically continuously.  This writer formed the impression that it was OK to knock down anybody legally if you blew the horn first.

As we neared the Memorial site we found the roadside was a bower of arches on either side and became a living guard of honour of Timorese spearmen.  The sight was unbelievable.  Then on to the actual spot for the ceremony, overlooking the Memorial.

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“There is a newly finished road immediately above the Memorial and it is at this point the plaques telling of the Memorial are placed”.

Above this road is the main road to Aileu and above this the remainder of the mountain side.  The whole of this area from the Memorial to the top of the mountain was covered with colourful and teeming humanity.  Such vivid colour I have never previously seen.

 

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“A guard of honour of Australian Naval personnel and a guard of Portuguese Army personnel were formed up for the salute”.

The whole scene was something that will probably never be witnessed in this world again.  The greeting we received was spontaneous and magnificent.  We had returned home!  All this and we had not yet dismounted from our vehicles [and] had not seen the Memorial.

We dismounted from our cars and shook hands with Mr Roger Dean, Administrator of the Northern Territory who was representing the Australian Commonwealth Government and his entourage which comprised the Naval Commander Northern Territory, Capt Cleary, Army Commander, Lt Col P.J. Norton, Air Commander, Group Capt Mather and ADC Lt Brian Bell.  Mr Dean was accompanied by his wife and the President of Darwin RSL, Mr J.P. Tiernan.

Then we turned around to view the scene.  What utter grandeur!  What true magnificence!  Timor's topography is probably absolutely unique in the world and this site one of the greatest possible.

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“Then to look down on the glory which is our Resting Place.  Never in my life have I witnessed such a beautiful site”.

The colour and majesty is indescribable.  The translucent blue water of the pool, the rugged strength of the Resting Place, the colourful terrazzo flooring, the power and strength of the free stone retaining walls, the huge trees and colourful shrubbery all added to a scene that was truly breath taking.  A quick catch in the throat was the first reaction.  Was this our gift to these wonderful people?  Surely this was fairyland.  We were dreaming.  No, it was all real.  So much more than we expected in our wildest dream.  Thank you, I Thank you!  You wonderful architects, engineers and workmen, that was my silent prayer.

All this happened in the space of seconds while we awaited the arrival of the Governor.  The guards gave a Royal Salute as His Excellency arrived and they were inspected and on to the ceremony of hand over and dedication.  It was with bated breath we who were involved awaited the start.

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“The Australian Consul introduced the speakers and we were away”.

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“The first to address the assembly was your President, Bill Epps, who found the occasion as much as he could bear and was so overcome with emotion that he broke down only to come back and finish the task in a manner only to be described as heroic and magnificent”.

Col Doig followed and he too found the occasion overwhelming and was shaking like an aspen leaf.

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“Col. Scapinakis spoke for the Portuguese”.

Nicolau Goncalves (Norm Thornton and Ray Aitken' s creado) spoke for the Timorese.  The Bishop of Dili blessed the Resting Place, Mr Roger Dean read the inscription on the plaque in English and the Governor read the plaque in Portuguese.  Mr Dean then spoke for the Australian Government and the Governor replied from the Portuguese Government.  This took a considerable time as all speeches had to be translated into Portuguese or English after they had been delivered.

NOTE: The full text of all the speeches delivered at the opening ceremony can be found in the Courier May 19691969-05%20-%20Courier%20May%201969.pdf

 

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“As the plaques were unveiled the guards gave a Royal Salute and a bugle band played the Retreat”.

A most moving and amazing ceremony, colourful in the extreme and never to be repeated in this world again.  Those who were fortunate enough to take part will have memories forever of this magnificent day.

With the ceremony over it was now time for the contingent to meet up with their ex-creados who had been assembled for just this occasion.  Many and touching were the reunions as we once again met these faithful friends.  Over 100 of these people had assembled and many were vouched for as being the ones who had helped us so much.  A small token of our esteem was handed to these people now quite aging and we so remembered them as boys and youths.  Once again, the lumps were in the throats and many an eye was brushed to remove a tear.

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“All the while a dancing group performed near the pool of the Memorial”.

The women accompanying the party were all awe struck by the occasion.

 

OTHER PHOTOS OF THE CEREMONY IN THE NAA COLLECTION

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Edited by Edward Willis
Add reference to full text of speeches being available in the Courier

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Great Work Ed.  Thank you.  I remember reading the Courier report of this ceremony and it was very moving.  It would be great to add this to these pictures.  It had the main speeches transcribed including Bill Epps' speech.  

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