100 YEARS: North Burnett councillor John Zahl, 2CER warrant officer David Squires, Gayndah RSL Sub Branch president Boyd Baker, Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd, RSL Wide Bay and Burnett District Branch president Trevor Williamson, and Mundubbera State School principal Peter Townsend.
100 YEARS: North Burnett councillor John Zahl, 2CER warrant officer David Squires, Gayndah RSL Sub Branch president Boyd Baker, Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd, RSL Wide Bay and Burnett District Branch president Trevor Williamson, and Mundubbera State School principal Peter Townsend. Rose Hamilton-Barr

A century of keeping the flame alive

EIGHTY men from Gayndah have made the ultimate sacrifice in Australia's armed conflicts since World War I.

According to Gayndah RSL Sub Branch president Boyd Baker, speaking at the 100th anniversary dinner of the sub branch, these men provide "ample reason” for the organisation's existence.

"An organisation such as this (provides) the opportunity and platform for returned servicemen and women to gather and support one another and to remember those who didn't return.”

Mr Baker said an important milestone for the RSL was extending membership outside those who saw active combat.

"Broadening the qualifications of membership, a very necessary change given the problem of shrinking membership, people such as myself who saw military service but were not called into war zones were able to join the RSL,” he said.

"The majority of our current membership fall into this category and I believe we are all still committed to serving the objectives of the league.”

Mr Baker also reflected on the close relationship the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment has formed with Gayndah after the death in 2010 of Sapper Jacob Moerland in Afghanistan.

He said the attendance of 2CER's warrant officer David Squires at the dinner is "representative of the unit's commitment to this community.”

"It gives us an opportunity to interface with servicemen and women while they are in (active) service,” Mr Baker said.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said the RSL was a "very important” organisation.

"I do hope they continue for many, many years to come and may it never end,” he said.

"No matter how we do it, whether we do it right or do it wrong, there will never cease to be some conflict in some part of the world and as you know, Australia is always there at the forefront.”

RSL Wide Bay and Burnett District Branch president Trevor Williamson agreed with Mr O'Dowd.

"We have a president of America who sits with a red button under his elbow and if he rolls over the wrong way we're in World War III, (and the) militarisation of China and the equipment they have,” Mr Williamson said.

"It concerns me.

"While we have nations on the brink... I think that there will be young men and women who will strap on the uniform and go to war which will mean the RSL again will be called upon after they've been discharged and they are here in the community.”

Mr Williamson did acknowledge declining membership "concerned” the organisation, but that RSL Queensland had gone on the front foot.

"(We have) tried very hard to arrest that problem,” he said.

The organisation has seen some success in launching an innovative employment service, which targets young men and women leaving the defence force, which to date has placed 105 men and women in jobs, Mr Williamson said.

"The Gayndah RSL Sub Branch has a lot of pride and done excellent work.

"I know you will continue to find those members who will step up.

"Recently we've had a few flame ceremonies where we've had a senior member of the RSL hand that flame across to a serving soldier in the defence force and that is quite a moving ceremony.

"It shows that the younger servicemen and women are taking up that gavel, they will fly the flag, they will hold the flame high and they will support us in the future.”


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