Anzac Day tributes will carry a special resonance this year, with the occasion marking the centenary of the Gallipoli landings in April 1915. Around Australia, many of our SSAA branches will be holding memorial shoots and other special events on or around April 25 in honour of those gallant diggers who never made it home from the global conflict.
The day carries a huge emotional weight in remembrance of all Australian and New Zealand troops who died in wars serving their countries, but the actual date of the launch of the ultimately doomed incursion onto the Turkish coast a century ago is a spiritual landmark.
The SSAA Victorian Military Rifle Club at its Eagle Park range in Little River has overseen an Anzac Day memorial shoot for the past three years, with all proceeds going to Legacy. Legacy is a charity providing services to Australian families of defence force personnel who are suffering financially or socially after the incapacitation or death of a spouse or parent during military service. The organisation currently cares for about 90,000 widows and 1900 children and disabled dependents throughout Australia.
This year, plans are afoot to make the Anzac Day event at Eagle Park even bigger and better. The shoot will be for standard-issue .303-calibre service rifles and will feature: 300m shooting, with 10 rounds in the prone position for the duration of two minutes; 200m shooting, with five rounds prone and five rounds sitting for three minutes; and 100m shooting, with 10 rounds snap in a standing position with five five-second exposures. Shooters will be divided into A, B and C grades for .303 service rifle. A supplementary event will focus on a bayonet shoot, with 10 rounds standing at 100m. Shooters will be able to use standard-issue service rifles (any calibre) with an appropriate bayonet.
The competition starting time will be at 10.30am, following the remembrance ceremony at 10am. A demonstration of World War I machine-guns will take centre stage after the competition. The entry fee of $20 includes barbecue lunch. Local and interstate shooters are welcome and there are plenty of prizes up for grabs, including special centenary Anzac scarves and veterans’ beanies, which have been produced by KLB Knitwear, based in Brunswick, Victoria, and have the full endorsement of the Victorian RSL Branch. For more information, email SSAA VMRC club president Frank Griffo on [email protected]
In Western Australia, the SSAA Jarrahdale Sporting Shooters Club’s Field Pistol section has run an Anzac memorial shoot on the first Sunday in May annually for the past five years. This year, organisers are putting into motion a special centenary schedule, starting with a mini Anzac service from 9am, followed by the shoot and a presentations function. The club has the main prize of the Anzac Trophy on the line plus other awards. The action will include club members, as well as veterans from the Royal Western Australia Regiment Association (RWARA).
The Jarrahdale shoot is traditionally held on the first Sunday in May after Anzac Day, which this year, is May 3. This policy is implemented so as to allow the RWARA and old soldiers to attend official remembrance events on April 25.
“It is a very special event that we schedule in our calendar and this year is more exciting than ever, being the 100th anniversary,” said Field Pistol captain Nikki Raffaelli.
“We are expecting that we will have a very good response. We will be having a lot of family groups attending, so we will cater for those. There should be a turnout of more than 50 people.
“We will have the traditional ceremony where poems will be recited and the Last Post will be played, then we will move on to the competitive action, before we hand out the prizes at the function after the shoot.”
For more information, phone Nikki Raffaelli on 0411 832 234.
The SSAA Mount Isa Branch is planning a big day this year, holding a competitive rifle shoot, with monies raised to be donated to Legacy. The course will involve rimfire shooting, with standard and silhouette targets in lots of five at the distance of 25m, and centrefire shooting at standard targets at various ranges from 50 to 100m in lots of five. There will also be a special centrefire challenge, with one shot at 200m on an illuminated 300mm target.
The 2015 event follows on from the initial gala hosted by the Mount Isa club last year. More than $2000 was raised for the Mount Isa RSL Legacy committee, which provides assistance to 13 families in the area.
“Last year was basically a ‘dry run’ to see if we could cope,” said event coordinator Carl Sorrenson. “We had about 40 people attend, but with added businesses as sponsors this time, we will be looking at closer to 100.”
This year, there will be a lunch at the range before a four-wheel drive ‘flex ramp’ moves into gear in the midafternoon. KAP Leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter will formally open proceedings for the veterans’ shoot, which is expected to start around 6pm. The entry fee for shooters is $5, with extra for ammunition, food and drink. A host of VIP dignitaries will mingle with veterans from both World Wars, including some who survived the savage conditions of the Kokoda Trail. There will be raffles with prizes donated by a bevy of sponsors.
Last year, the shoot was officially declared open by then 94-year-old Mount Isa local Frank Koitka, a World War II veteran. Frank opted not to use a .303-calibre rifle, similar to one he would have been issued with during the hostilities. Instead, he picked up a more modern .22 rimfire rifle to take the first shot. Frank hopes to be there again as a guest this time around.
The range is about 17km east of Mount Isa on the Barkly Highway before the Lake Julius turn-off. For more information, phone Carl Sorrenson on 0438 496007.
In South Australia, the SSAA Hahndorf Rifle Club is inviting all those who have served in times of conflict to its traditional Anzac Day shoot. The welcome also extends to those interested in or who have shot military firearms of the past.
Proceedings will centre on a 23-round core event divided into two details of 10 scoring rounds, with two optional sighters in the first detail and one in the second. The competition will be held at 200 yards for standard, target and sniper class. Trainer class will be at 100 yards.
“This shoot has been conducted at Hahndorf for three years and hopefully will continue strongly every year,” said HRC Service Rifle captain Nathaniel Brooke. Fifteen to 45 shooters have attended the event to date, he said.
The day will start at 10am, after signing in has been concluded at 9.30am. The competition is expected to be wrapped up by 5pm. Range fees will be $29 per discipline. For more information, phone Nathaniel Brooke on 0459 708 618 or email [email protected]
Elsewhere around the state, SSAA Para will be hosting an Anzac Day Field Shotgun shoot, which is scheduled for a midday start. For further information, contact section captain Jeff Kimber on 08 8263 6814.
The Mannum & District Pistol & Shooting Club will put on a night shotgun shoot of 50 Down the Line clay targets from 6.30pm. A barbecue tea will be available from 5.30pm. For more information, phone 08 8531 1162.
It will be an afternoon start for shooters at the SSAA Moonta Branch where a Lever Action Rifle Calibre/Handgun match is on the agenda for 2pm. For more information, phone SSAA Moonta Secretary Judith Read on 0448 213 602 or email [email protected]
The SSAA Darwin Branch will be holding its usual Anzac shoot on Sunday, April 26. The reason for not holding it on the actual day is that a large number of club members attend Anzac Day ceremonies. For more information, phone the branch office on 08 8947 1339 or email [email protected]
Whichever remembrance function you decide to attend at any of the SSAA branches or clubs, they are each certain to uphold the undimmed aura and dignity of the Anzac spirit in a fitting manner.
To find out more about these events and any other upcoming SSAA competitions, visit www.ssaa.org.au/disciplines
Tasmania to pay tribute to El Alamein
The traditional Anzac Day march in Hobart will feature a vehicle that survived one of the landmark battles of World War II. A Chev Blitz truck, which saw action at El Alamein during the Western Desert Campaign in 1942, will be part of the parade under the guidance of a trio of members of the SSAA Historical Arms & Military Society of Tasmania.
A 25lb howitzer gun, which weighs in at 2 tonnes, will be linked to the truck, which will have SSAA members Brian Wiggins, John Wise and Frank Hesman on board. The parade is scheduled to begin on April 25 at around 10.30am, with the truck’s usual starting point somewhere along Murray Street. John believes that the distance to be driven will be about 2km. As the parade goes past the City Hall en route to the Cenotaph, a salute will be taken by Lord Mayor of Hobart Sue Hickey and Governor of Tasmania Kate Warner.
The truck and gun are kept at John’s home, which is a 60-acre property at Nugent just outside Hobart, where he retired in 1990, so there is there is plenty of room for the wartime exhibits.
“It’s a pretty hardy vehicle and very versatile, which you would expect, as it had to operate in the desert,” said John. “Most of the wartime trucks were plated together in Canada as flat packs and then sent out to the war areas for assembly. But this one was actually put together by Holden at Fishermans Bend in Victoria.”
John said the truck had also been in demand at annual luncheons on October 23 each year to commemorate El Alamein and previous Remembrance Day services each November when the SSAA group had been able to fire blank rounds after the minute’s silence. Sometimes, the SSAA members add to the spirit of the occasions by dressing in military uniforms from yesteryear.
John and his colleagues have plans afoot to add to their wartime artefacts. “We are in the process of restoring another Chev Blitz truck, as well as a Ford Blitz,” he said.