LETTER: War memorial a moving discovery

LAST October, on being taken on a nine-day nostalgic trip to Melbourne and back, my three boys and I visited the war memorial in Canberra.

Here we experienced an awesome moment in time.

We had been told to be at the war memorial at 5pm and there we would hear the closing ceremony and the playing of the last post which is repeated each day.

Canberra War Memorial
Canberra War Memorial Contributed

We did this with just 15 minutes to spare, and were able to take up a good position on the staircase overlooking the memorial pool.

Here we had a wonderful view of all proceedings.

There were at least three school classes there from Queensland and Victoria.

At 5pm the closing service started - firstly with an introduction of the VIPs - one of who was an American naval officer, and the other a Canadian official.

The laying of the wreathes proceeded with the dignitaries and the school leaders laying these flowers; this was followed by the playing of the bagpipes.

Canberra War Memorial
Canberra War Memorial Contributed

Next we had the story of one of the heroes from the two World Wars, before the playing of the last-post which is always very emotional.

The staff official began to read out the story of Corporal Bernard Edmund O'Dwyer.

He was born in Toowoomba, but had his education at the Christian Brothers College, Maryborough, Queensland. This man had enlisted at the age of l8 into the Army Corp around 1915, did a few months training in Australia, then was sent over into France and up into the war zone area near Amiens.

He was killed by a bomb shell that flew over and landed in their army camp.

He was only 20 years old.

Well we could not believe what we were hearing... from Maryborough?

My two boys' chests swelled out, they shook their heads in disbelief and said "well this is where we were educated too".

We felt awestruck to be there on just this special occasion.

One of the staff told me that a different person is selected each day.

As the American naval officer passed by, I told him my story, that I lived in Maryborough, and had had six children educated at this college; that their father and three brothers had attended this school, as also did their father and his three brothers.

He agreed that this was our special day.

It is possible that my sons' grandfather and Bernard O'Dwyer were at school together.

I informed the principal Mr Graham Meertons at St Mary's College; he was very interested. When a bus load of St Mary's students travelled to Canberra the following month, they were given the task of finding out more information about this man - Bernard O'Dwyer.

This proved very successful.



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