Apex Park centenary service bonds Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch with RAAF

A 96-year-old World War II veteran from Nelson Bay was among the gathering at a special service to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force on Wednesday, March 31.

Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch hosted the centenary event at the memorial in Nelson Bay's Apex Park as a way of honouring the relationship between the sub-branch and Williamtown RAAF Base.

Around 50 people attended the 20-minute service, which was led by sub-branch vice-president Tom Lupton and included the reciting of a prayer and The Ode, as well as the playing of the The Last Post and Reveille.

A number of wreaths were laid at the memorial.

The ceremony also featured a historical account of the Air Force in Australia delivered by No. 77 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Jason Easthope.

Among the throng of invited guests was Nelson Bay's WWII Air Force veteran Eric Brae, accompanied by his daughter Jenny, son-in-law John Wilson and granddaughter Belinda Wilson-Chartres.

"It was a wonderful ceremony and I was very pleased to be part of it," said Mr Brae, a long-time Bay resident and member of the RSL sub-branch.

"The speakers spoke very well and it brought back many memories."

Mr Brae enlisted in the Air Force at age 18, serving with the 1st 81 Fighter Wing. He worked as a fitter, a generator operator and in the medical wing driving ambulances, and his overseas deployments included Moratai Island in Indonesia and New Guinea.

He left the military in 1946 to resume his trade as a fitter and turner before retiring to Port Stephens more than 40 years ago, where he has kept himself busy with volunteer work and honing his artistic skills.

Mr Brae was one of the members responsible for the design and construction of the Apex Park Memorial and he has spent many voluntary hours with the local Meals on Wheels and helping school students with their reading.

"I have also taught guitar and I enjoy dabbling in artwork... I am only three and a bit years away from turning 100 and receiving that letter from the Queen," he said.

Sub-branch member Russell Durrant said that the service started a little earlier than the advertised time of 10.45am in order to escape the forecast rain.

"We had a great turnout despite the overcast conditions and we were glad we could honour the RAAF in this way," he said.

"Both Nelson Bay Sub-Branch and the Williamtown RAAF Base have enjoyed a long, fruitful and respectful relationship over many years..

"Many of our members are currently serving or are ex-RAAF, and the base has always assisted with our services. We thought it would be a nice gesture to honour the relationship we have by hosting a ceremony to mark the centenary celebration."

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