Sacrifice of National Servicemen commemorated in Armidale

COMMEMORATION: Armidale National Servicemen sub-branch president Barry Dawson holds a collection of Australian Army Rising Sun badges.
COMMEMORATION: Armidale National Servicemen sub-branch president Barry Dawson holds a collection of Australian Army Rising Sun badges.

AS the barrel turned, 19-year-old men across the country held their breath.

The birthday ballot would determine who was going to be conscripted for National Service.

“You were being plucked out of civilian life and put in a uniform for a period of time and after it was finished you resumed,” ex-serviceman Barry Dawson said.

“Some got benefits out of it, others got a lifetime of nothing but medical problems and psychological problems.”

There were four schemes of national service, and 1.2 million men and boys served under them.

The first time National Servicemen went to combat was in 1942 in New Guinea.

The 39th Battalion was the first to engage the Japanese on the Kokoda Track.

On Sunday, a commemoration service will be held to remember those that lost their lives in service and those who lost them since.

Mr Dawson served during the Vietnam War era.

He doesn’t remember the day his birth date was drawn from the same barrel they used to pick the lottery numbers.

“Part of my job was to go to the Richmond Airforce Base and pick up the wounded coming back from Vietnam,” Mr Dawson said.

“They ranged from the normal gunshot wounds to mine blasts.

“They had a mine over there called the Jumping Jack, once you trod on it there were two explosions.

“One lifted it out of the ground and the second was filled with ball bearings.

“That caused a lot of damage.”

Many men from the New England were conscripted as part of the National Service schemes.

Mr Dawson said many of them are getting on in age.

“We have a lot of OBE’s now, which is Over Bloody Eighty,” he said.

“We’re trying to pass on to the younger generation what we are, who we are and what we did.

“We once served our country, now we serve our community.”

The National Servicemen’s Day service is on Sunday February 11 from 11:30am at Central Park, Armidale.

This story Sacrifice of conscripted young men remembered first appeared on The Guyra Argus.

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