Speaking at the main service, Sergeant Adrian Reynolds, 35 Combat Engineer Squadron, told attendees he had been told by his soldiers of the town’s hospitality.
“I can say that having now been here for a couple of days I have never in my career felt this welcome,” he said. “It is truly humbling to be treated this way by men and women I have never met and who owe me nothing.”
It was said from the perspective of a 12-year career that has included postings to Darwin, Brisbane, Wagga and Rockhampton, as well as deployments to Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Nauru, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The well-attended service heard that Sgt Reynolds had lost 19 mates and one search dog in that time, but three since December to suicide.
Expanding on his memories at the RSL lunch for 100 held after the service, it was apparent to all that active duty is still taking a toll on Australia’s servicemen and women.
He acknowledged the support given by partners and communities, and reiterated that it was a pleasure to come to a small town where they felt so appreciated, which didn’t always happen in larger urban settings.
The presence of so many children participating in Barcaldine’s services was a positive sign that “after all this, this great country will continue and we will never forget,” Sgt Reynolds said.
The service of one of Barcaldine’s own, Henry Ernest Grace, was outlined on the morning.
Born at Barcaldine in 1890, “Ernie” attended school there and was the manager of the James Stewart and Co drapery store in the town in 1916, when he went to Longreach to “farewell numerous friends and pass through to Rockhampton”.
He had enlisted. In December he sailed out of Sydney, arriving in England the following March, where he trained in using Vickers machine guns.
It wasn’t until June 1918 that he was sent to France, joining the Australian 3rd Machine Gun Battalion, which was involved in heavy fighting and subject to mustard gas attacks, until November’s armistice.
On his return to Australia he moved to Winton where his eldest brother was living, and was buried in the RSL cemetery there following his death in 1947.
Family members were in Barcaldine on Anzac Day to acknowledge his service.
As usual, the service played both the Australian and New Zealand anthems, and crocheted poppies made by Nicole Kingston, her mother and a friend were distributed around the community.