Facebook Post by Koos de Wet on 20.7.23
The month of June is an important one for anyone interested in military affairs.
On June 6, 1944 around 1.5m soldiers stormed ashore in the D-Day landings which saved all of us from having to speak German today and also in June 1989, Australian troops were on the ground in Namibia as part of the Untag force helping Namibia transition to independence which made our choice of General Stephen Day who served with the Australian component of Untag as our guest speaker for our dinner such a fitting one.
And right up there with these important events that took place in June of course is the Queensland and Northern Territory SAMVOA annual dinner in Brisbane! The time when we dress up in fancy wancy suits and propeller ties and the ladies put on their finery.
Once again the Jindalee Hotel south of Brisbane was the venue for our dinner and chairman Shaun and his team did a great job in preparing the ballroom for the function.
Waiting for us upon arrival was a glass of that traditional lovely brown liquid that quickly warms the innards and drives out the the cold and helped set the scene for the evening. Acquaintances were renewed and friends caught up on the news and it was wonderful to also welcome a (growing) number of our Australian guests including our guest speaker of last year, retired General Pearn and our guest speaker for the evening, retired Australian General Stephen Day DSC AM.
All too soon it was time to go to our tables and after the gathering was called to order the Official Dinner got underway.
Under the watchful eye of our chairman, Shaun Winson, the MC for the evening was (the always unpredictable Black Beret) Mick O’ Connor, in my book a risky appointment because of Mike’s well known mischievous and anti-infantry tendencies and pronouncements, but we had Shaun to at least keep an eye on him and keep him on a tight rein.
Veteran Gordon Meikle delivered the Grace and Chairman Shaun conducted the formal welcome.
Veteran Miles Parker assisted by Shaun Winson paid tribute to the Fallen Soldier in one of the most touching and emotional tributes seen in a long time with many a moist amongst eye those present as we remembered our fallen and the haunting tones of the Last Post reminded us again of those who paid the highest price. You certainly did us all proud gentlemen.
Most of those present found it very is very hard to escape the moist eyes and tightened throats when looking at the table set for one with an empty chair, a white tablecloth, lighted candle, a Bible, the single rose, the helmet and the inverted glass as a reminder of those no longer with us and long may this tribute continue.
After an excellent meal served up by the hotel it was time for our guest speaker, the respected and internationally recognized Major General Stephen Day DSC AM to take the microphone which surprisingly he did not!
General Day retired from the ADF after 40 years of service including a stint in SWA/Namibia as a member of the Australian component of Untag during the Transition period and today is the State President of RSL Queensland.
To the surprise of many, when general Day stepped up to the podium he simply ignored the microphone and stepped forward to be closer to the audience and started his talk in loud and clear tones – a welcome departure from tradition and well done General Day.
He was going to keep his talk short because an important Julius something or another a few centuries back was stabbed in the back after making a long speech and learning from the mistakes of others he was not going to risk having done to him what had been done to dear ole Julius C so he was going to play safe and keep it short.
And what a great choice of after dinner speaker he was with his most entertaining talk revolving around the time he served in Namibia, something that resonated with us and we could easily relate to.
Whilst he was struck by the many similarities to his native Australia when first arriving in Windhoek where he was based, he very quickly realized that Namibia was also very different to Australia in so many ways.
His posting to Windhoek was not just a job, it eventually turned into a journey during which he was exposed to new cultures and the African way of doing things that were new or foreign to him.
Something all soldiers are of course known for is verbal “dickswinging” which is what he inevitably got involved in, apparently with a burly fellow from 61 Mech when discussing the South African Olifant tank.
When upon enquiry the 61 guy told him how fast it could go he just had to mention the Aussie Leopard could go almost twice as fast. Similar for the operating range. Leopard 30% further than the Olifant. Gun size - Leopard of course had to have a more powerful gun than the Olifant. Then the clincher – how did the Olifant fare against the Soviet tanks in the bush? Brilliant indeed, responded the Mech 61 fellow – recently he had been up against a T54/5 in an encounter in typical bush and the tanks were quite close and when they spotted each other the Soviet tank could not swing its barrel because of the dense trees so the Olifant commander got out and sprinted across to the Russian tank and despatched its commander with his pistol and that makes the Olifant a great tank! One to the Olifant commander and end of discussion.
His talk resonated well with those present and brought back many forgotten or deeply buried memories in the process, both pleasant and less pleasant and all told it was great talk for our event, a most professional and polished presentation indeed and on behalf of SAMVOA Queensland and Norther Territory, a big thank you General Day.
The passing of the port followed and then the various trophies were awarded.
The Bugle Trophy was awarded to John Barnard (he who flew in the SAAF and still flies machines where a million rivets and bolts fly in close formation and the wings go round and round in defiance of all the laws of physics) for his contribution to building morale in and supporting our organization and participating in all its activities.
Fanie Venter (proudly also one of the 44 and well done!) was the worthy recipient of the Bayonet for his willingness to always step up to help, his dedication to our organization and his well known perseverance (and ready smile!)
The Heritage trophy was awarded to Jonathan Winson for his support of our organization and participation in many of the events including being our official photographer for the evening whose photographs I used in this post. Nice job Jonathan.
The socializing continued until well post 23h00 and none of us will forget the poignant words General Day concluded his talk with – “ I arrived in Africa a boy and left a man”
Koos de Wet