Gearing up for Anzac Day

Museum secretary Trevor Aitken and volunteer Ken Lidster.

By Tania Phillips

Preparations are already underway at the Rockhampton Military Museum for this year’s Anzac Day.

Situated centrally in the Rockhampton CB they are in the perfect spot for the March and ceremony, Anzac Day is, unsurprisingly, a big deal at the museum each year and they are always looking for volunteers to help out both on the day and at the museum itself.

Museum secretary Trevor Aitken said the museum has been at the site at the Drill Hall – a heritage listed site for the past 13 years.

“It’s an old building built at the turn of the last century it’s one of the last drill hall examples left in Australia, so we’re very lucky, it’s a beautiful old building although it creaks and groans and leaks and has all the other things that old building have,” he laughed.

“It marries very well with what we do. We have a number of other buildings on the site and we occupy a site opposite the rail museum. We’ve got memorials to different events the Australian Defence forces have been involved in and this area used to have a rifle range in the centre of town.

“This was always the local 42nd Battalion headquarters.”

The museum, staffed by volunteers, has all sorts of displays covering all the wars that Australians have been in since Federation – many donated by local families. But they are always looking for both more volunteers and more donations.

Trevor himself, has no military background, came into the museum through an interesting way.

“I was restoring an old military jeep and going back three or four years ago the president of our jeep club in Rockhampton here was indicating that he was going to join the museum because they were short of volunteers and at that stage I’d just retired so I said I’ll come along and help to,” he said.

“I was looking for something to do and I’ve been here ever since.

“I certainly have no military experience, though a lot of the volunteers that work here are ex-service, a lot of them are ex 42nd Battalion but we’ve had a lot of ex Navy and ex Airforce. We’ve got some people here who have recently served overseas as medics.

“We’re a pretty broad group of volunteers, ex national service types, all sorts of things. There’s a fair bit of experience among the volunteers, but not with me,” he laughed.

Trevor said he always had an interest in military history and he knew some of the stuff.

“But every day is a learning experience but it’s really good because we have the general public coming in here and I’m able to also use the computers to do a bit of research so we can find out stories about some of the donations we’ve got,” he said.

“We’ve got a gentleman who used to fly Mosquitos – all his equipment was donated to the museum in relatively recent times and I was able to go through and look at his service history. He fly fighter bombers out of England during WWII.”

The building is filled with memories, memorabilia and audio visual displays and is a hit with visitors and local schools keen to learn more or come and remember.

“We have an audio visual movie narrated by a former mayor of Rockhampton, who has since passed away, and that is all about World War I,” he said.

“It is actually about the local involvement, people who came from Central Queensland, who served in the First World War, some of those were too incredible to believe. They were wounded and discharged and went over seas again and eventually they were killed unfortunately. We have a lot of displays here, most of our gear – about 95 percent of our gear has been donated by the local populous in Central Queensland. That includes, helmets, equipment and uniforms and weaponry.”

“It’s a pretty informative display.”

He said as well as war memorabilia there are photos and displays of what the home life was like as well as the land army.

“It would probably take a good hour to look at all the displays,” Trevor said.

With the volunteers aging and a couple now up over 80 they are looking for more volunteers and because they are only open 9am to 2pm it is not a big commitment.

Trevor said anyone interested in volunteering or donating they could phone, drop in or email info@cqmm.org.au.

On Anzac Day the museum will be open from about 5am in the morning until 4-5pm in the afternoon.

“We are in an area adjacent to where the march assembles for the return servicemen,” he said.

“We provide the breakfast, we provide the lunches and we run a bar and we’re generally a meeting spot for a lot of the ex-servicemen.

“We are starting to get ready for this Anzac Day because you’ve got to have all your ducks in a row to do that because although we’ve got volunteers to man the counter we’ve got to have volunteers to provide cooking and serving. It’s a very big day, it’s a long day and we are usually fairly knackered by the end.”

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