‘The most memorable of Remembrance Days’ is how Tenterfield RSL Sub-branch president Dave Stewart described events at Memorial Hall on November 11. Proceedings included the formal presentation of memorabilia, letters and postcards donated to the Sub-branch by the family of George Thomas Rivers, who lost his life a century ago in France during WW1.
Mr Stewart was thrilled with the rollup to the Remembrance Day ceremony at the hall on Saturday, boosted this year by November 11 falling on a non-work day for most. He said he received comments from a number of community members and visitors who were delighted to see school children involved.
Local schools Tenterfield High, St Josephs and The Sir Henry Parkes Memorial each had representatives who laid wreaths at the memorial, as did dignitaries and other community members.
Another highlight of the ceremony was the reading by Tom Houlihan of the poem War Graves On Tarakan authored by Flight Officer A.T. Latham. Mr Houlihan had noted the Sub-branch’s Battle of Tarakan display on a visit to Tenterfield, and was reminded of it when he heard the poem was recited at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Mr Houlihan travelled to Tenterfield to be a part of the ceremony, and to present the Sub-branch with a framed copy of the poem. Centrepiece of the Tarakan display is a flag which flew over operations at the island, presented to Able Seaman Rodney Johnson (father of Jeff Johnson and Barbara Brown) and donated to the Sub-branch by his widow Maxine.
Four days before Australian troops of the Ninth Division invaded Tarakan, and under the noses of the Japanese shore guns, HMAS Lachlan went close inshore to the Japanese-held island. Two small boats attached to the Lachlan, the Mermaid and the Lark which were fitted with echo-sounding and measuring devices, carried out the dangerous task of surveying the difficult channel leading in to the port of Lingas, buoying it for safe conduct of the invasion fleet despite many mines. As the Lachlan continued its mission, Lockheed Lightnings carried out low-level bombings and B26 bombers high level bombing of the shore. Anchored 20 miles out, the American battleship Missouri and a second battleship shelled the island. After this mission was successfully completed the Lachlan carried out a similar operation at Brunei Bay This was the flag flown during the operation. Later when the flag was in need of replacement Lieutenant Commander McGee gave it to Able Seaman Rodney Johnson, who was cox’n of the Mermaid.The description which accompanies the Tarakan display at the RSL Pavilion.