Coolum-Peregian RSL will commemorate their 40th anniversary this year and President Bill Powell has started rallying his troops in preparation for the sub branch’s massive ANZAC Day dawn ceremony on 25 April.
Led by the branch’s longest continuous running President Bill Powell, Coolum-Peregian RSL was granted the 2013 RSL Sunshine Coast District ‘Engaging the Community Award’ for their determined efforts to honour our veterans and pass an appreciation for their sacrifices onto the next generation.
Over the past five years, the branch has put a considerable amount of time into supporting the youth and ensuring all members of the community have the chance to participate in commemorating ANZAC Day.
In the lead up to each ANZAC Day dawn service, Mr Powell and his team can be found conducting ANZAC Day ceremonies for the areas growing number of schools and nursing homes.
They have also facilitated grants to help the district’s schools and aged care facilities establish and open their own Commemorative gardens.
As an individual, President Bill Powell was named Coolum’s ‘Community Volunteer of the Year’ at this year’s Australia Day awards, and it is his leadership and passion that has seen the town’s traditional dawn ANZAC Day ceremony grow to attract close to 6000 locals to honour the fallen as the sun rises over the beach.
Mr Powell continues to be impressed with the dedication of local residents who sacrifice sleep to turn up in their droves at 5am.
“The Dawn Service at Coolum-Peregian RSL is one of the largest services held on the Sunshine Coast. It is the also the town’s biggest event attended exclusively by locals,” he said.
“I credit the rise in numbers to the help and support that the entire community has given to this annual event.
“Every sector of Coolum gets involved; from the schools, the business community, through to our huge contingent of volunteer groups – including passionate support from the Surf Lifesavers.”
With many RSL branches now opting to hold a 10am ANZAC Day service, Mr Powell is often asked why the Coolum branch only holds a Dawn Service. His answer is simple.
“The troops landed at dawn on ANZAC Cove to protect our way of life and freedom, the least we can do is assemble at dawn to pay our respects. It’s not only traditional, but the actual time holds serious significance and emotion,” he explained.
This year marks the 99th anniversary of the start of World War II, and as well as welcoming Allied Service personnel, Coolum-Peregian RSL is asking ex-Service Women to lead the ANZAC Day march to the Cenotaph.
93-years-old veteran Helen Christian is one of the first women proudly volunteering to head up the dawn march, and said it was the first time she had heard of an ANZAC Day march specifically honouring women who have served their country.
“We are all very proud of Helen. She served in Britain during WWII as a driver, transporting the Air Crew for Bomber Command,” Mr Powell said.
“We want to honour women who have served in all three defence services and it’s important that all of our ex-Service Women consider joining Helen to lead this year’s special march. Her message is – if she can do it; so can they.”
Those intending to march in this year’s service, should contact the RSL on (07) 5446 2588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Muster for the march is 5.10am at Seacove Lane, with march-off at 5.20am. Community groups wishing to lay a wreath during the service should also contact the RSL prior to 25 April.