Silence then celebration to mark armistice centenary

By Corowa Free Press

By Simon Ginns

Rutherglen will hold three events to mark 100 years since the signing of the Armistice that ended World War One on Sunday.  

When news of a lasting peace arrived on the evening of November 11, 1918, crowds spontaneously gathered in the streets of Melbourne. Through the night people cheered, danced, drank and celebrated. The weight of four years of conflict was finally lifted from their lives.

In the midst of joy there was also grief. Families wept for their losses and feared for the lives of loved ones for whom was still a trench or dugout on the other side of the world.

As news of the events in Europe trickled through by telegraph and train, the scenes on Melbourne streets replayed in country towns across the state. Rutherglen was no different.

In 1914, Rutherglen Shire was home to just over 1,000 men of ‘fighting age’. Over the course of the war 620 enlisted and one in five of these men died in the conflict.

This year’s special Remembrance Day program hopes to capture some of the bittersweet emotion of a century ago.

At 11am Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch will hold a traditional Remembrance Day commemoration service at the cenotaph in Rutherglen Memorial Park. The service will include a wreath laying ceremony and observance of a minute’s silence.

At 2pm, a granite memorial cross commissioned by the Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch will be unveiled in Carlyle Cemetery. The cross is a symbolic resting place for all service personnel from the district irrespective of their actual place of burial.

Following the unveiling, Indigo Shire Mayor, Cr Bernard Gaffney, will plant a Gallipoli pine tree next to the cross.

From 6pm to 9pm there will be a community street party in Lions Park, Douglas Street Rutherglen.

Everyone is invited to take part in this celebration of peace.

Families are encouraged to bring tables, chairs and picnic dinner and enjoy the atmosphere of the event. Rutherglen RSL, Lions and Rotary will be running a BBQ sausage sizzle.

The program of music and entertainment for the evening has a post war theme and will include a performance by the Murray Brass Band. 

Students from Rutherglen’s three schools and kindergarten will conduct a special service in memory of the 115 local men killed in the war.

The Lions Park alcohol free zone has been temporarily suspended by Indigo Shire from 6pm to 9pm to enable the community to BYO refreshments.

Craig Williams is the senior vice president of the RSL Sub-Branch and has been a member of the street party organising committee since its inception. As a former Australian army soldier who served in East Timor, he has first-hand experience of the emotional burden an overseas deployment can place on friends and loved ones at home.

Mr Williams hopes Sunday’s party will recreate some of the emotion that spilled onto the streets of Rutherglen a century ago. 

“We wanted to get everyone involved and recreate the spirit of that night. Having so many community groups involved and all of the schools, we think we will get a really good turnout,” he said.

“We wanted everyone to think about what it was like, remember those who served and how the war affected everyone in the town.”