AUSTRALIAN prisoners of war were remembered at the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial for its 11th anniversary service in Ballarat on Sunday.
A minute’s silence was held for the 36,000 Australian men and women who were held captive during conflicts since the Boer War, in 1899.
Eight former prisoners of war attended the service, with a 600-strong crowd paying their respects.
Ex-POW trustee William Francis Bahr said the anniversary was a time to honour the Australian servicemen and women who had been taken captive as a result of their service.
“We need to remember the people who made sacrifices for us, not only those in the past but those making sacrifices now and the families they leave behind,” he said. “It (the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial) has 36,000 stories to tell.”
While last year’s event was honoured with a fly-over by the Royal Australian Air Force, it was a flock of cockatoos that made the same journey over this year’s service.
Master of ceremonies Bruce Roberts commented to the audience that their sound seemed to replicate the larrikin nature of the servicemen and women who were being remembered, something that attendees took as a fitting unplanned tribute.
Guest speaker and film producer Ross Thomas spoke at the service about recognising the stories of the ex-POWs and putting their contributions to the Great War on the map. Following significant research, Mr Thomas has helped identify names missing from the wall, which have been added over the years.
Ballarat mayor John Philips highlighted the significance of the memorial to the nation.
“It is a hugely important day for the national memorial and for the people it respects, the people who come to understand and value it, and to the families of those who went through that line of trauma,” he said.
Ballarat’s Bruce Clifton joined friend and POW Bill Wilkie at the service on Sunday and said the memorial was a chance to remember their fallen comrades.
It also marked the anniversary of a significant day for Mr Clifton, who on February 8, 1945, was shot down from his Lancaster bomber over the Swedish coastline.
While he was lucky enough to survive the incident by opening his parachute, his crew of six were not as lucky and on Sunday he took time to remember them.
“I can only see the boys as 22 and 23, even though now they would 90,” he said.
More than 200 POWs have died since last year’s anniversary.