It may have been a relatively small gathering but the significance was monumental as around 30 people gathered in Raymond Terrace on Friday for the Centenary of Armistice flagpole ceremony.
The new flagpole and plaque, installed at the roundabout on the corner of William and Port Stephens streets, marked the 100th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the First World War.
They will also act as a permanent reminder of the 112 men and women from the district who enlisted in that war.
The nine-metre flagpole with Australian flag was jointly funded by the Australian Government, represented by federal member Meryl Swanson at Friday’s ceremony, Port Stephens Council, represented by councillor Paul Le Mottee, and the Raymond Terrace RSL Sub-Branch.
Sub-branch president Vic Jones said that the original wooden flagpole, first erected on the landmark intersection in 1988, had deteriorated due to weathering and was in desperate need of replacement.
“In March our sub-branch secured a grant of $3150 from the government towards the cost of replacing the old flagpole with a new aluminium, 12-metre flagpole with internal halyards,” Mr Jones said.
“The council generously agreed to fund the cost of removing the old and installing the new.
“We have invested in a larger sized flag to fly to ensure it remains noticeable.”
Mr Jones said a bronze plaque detailing the dedication of the flagpole and recognising the funding for the project had been erected outside the Clare Castle Hotel.
He said the flagpole would enable members of the RSL sub-branch to continue a tradition of raising the Australian flag each morning and lowering it each evening, inviting people to reflect on the long history of military service provided by both past and current serving men and women of Raymond Terrace.
“Our sub-branch has a long association with raising and lowering the flag and it started with former member and World War II veteran William (Bill) Bobbins,” Mr Jones said.
“Bill joined the Australian Army in 1939 and served until 1945. He saw service in Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tobruk, Greece, Crete, Syria, Ceylon; and in PNG on the Kokoda Trail, and at Aitape and Wewak.”
On discharge, Mr Bobbins worked as a carpenter at RAAF Base Williamtown and became a most active member of the Raymond Terrace community.
“He was a foundation member of the Raymond Terrace Soccer Club, which honoured him with the naming of Bill Bobbins Oval, and he founded the Raymond Terrace Senior Sea Scouts, the Raymond Terrace Stroke Club and in 1996 Bill was presented with the Port Stephens Medal and honoured as Citizen of the Year. In 2002 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia,” Mr Jones told the gathering.
“But despite these community commitments, for approximately 15 years Bill also raised and lowered the national flag on a daily basis. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 95 in May 2017.
“After Bill’s death his son, John, carried on with the flag-raising duty until requested by the RSL Sub-Branch to forgo this family tradition and allow Sub-Branch members to form a flag party to carry on this important tradition.”
Mr Bobbins was represented at Friday’s inauguration ceremony by John and extended family.
In conjunction with Remembrance Day on November 11, a special international tribute has been planned by the Raymond Terrace RSL Sub-Branch to be conducted at 5pm at the newly installed flagpole.
“At this time all around the world Australian and international pipe bands and pipers will play the tune ‘The Battle’s O’er’, composed a century ago to remember those who served and paid the supreme sacrifice,” Mr Jones said.
“Our sub-branch has arranged for solo piper Ron Baillie to mark this occasion.
“All members of the public are invited to attend this short ceremony to commemorate the memory of all veterans and their families who served and sacrificed in that great war.”