AN ETERNAL flame now ‘burns’ in Civic Park as a daily reminder of the fragility of life and the sacrifice of past and present serving members of the Australian Defence Force.
The monument was unveiled during a Remembrance Day service which marked the centenary of the end of World War I.
For president of City of Newcastle RSL sub branch Ken Fayle, the flame was something he hoped would grab people’s attention as they walk or drive by and remind them of the people who have served and are currently serving overseas.
“This park is the commemorative heart of this great city,” he said.
“I am honoured to accept this gift on behalf it the people of Newcastle.
“It symbolises the spirit of those who died and the fragility of life.
“While your physical being might be gone, your spirit survives.”
Mr Fayle shared his personal connection to World War I with the crowd at Sunday’s service. One of his grandfathers, who grew up in Lambton, ran off and joined the fledgling Royal Australian Navy in 1913 hopeful for adventure and looking for an escape from a life in the mines.
“He didn’t want to spend his life as a miner, the same as his father,” he said.
“You can imagine his dismay when he was given the job as a stoker of the boilers of the original HMAS Melbourne.
“Granulated black coal, full of coal dust, the thing he was trying to escape.
“He was declared medically unfit at the end of the war in London, returned home and died at the ripe old age of 29. My mother was just three.
“For me this flame represents his spirit.”
A crowd watched on as the monument, housed in a stone plinth and built of granite, was unveiled prior to the Remembrance Day service.
As the flame flickered, it was the words of guest speaker and Newcastle Legatee, retired Wing Commander James Treadwell which struck a chord.
“This is a significant anniversary for Australia and indeed the world,” he said.
“These were calamitous events in human history. This was a day of world deliverance and 100 years on a day of reflection.”
He urged people to practice mateship and fair play, as a way to remember those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom enjoyed by Australians today.
“We must ensure mateship and fair play remains vibrant in Australian culture now and into the future.”
Lorraine Walker laid homemade posies of poppies at the base of the memorial during the service.
While Sunday was the centenary of the end of World War I, the service also marked a very different anniversary for the Walker family.
It was almost one year since Lorraine’s husband, Lionel Walker, died at the age of 70.
Mr Walker was a Vietnam veteran who served as a corporal in the No. 2 squadron of the RAAF.
Initially Mr Walker did not join in commemorations due to the stigma surrounding the Vietnam war, but about 30 years ago his wife forced him to get up and proudly march on Anzac Day.
The Wallsend couple marched every year together and would always attend Remembrance Day services.
“I always marched with my husband,” Mrs Walker said.
“He was a very proud man, a lovely man.
“For me Remembrance Day is about the guys, the freedom they gave us, you have to respect that.”
Mrs Walker, adorned in a poppy scarf, had her husband’s pictures in lockets around her neck and proudly wore his medals.
She spent weeks leading up to Remembrance Day making almost 700 poppies to donate to the installation at Fort Scratchley.
Her daughter, Sandra Dimmock, travelled from Dubbo for the Civic Park commemoration and together they presented a wreath with Mr Walker’s smiling face pictured upon it.
The Remembrance Day service was to be followed by a ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral at 6pm.
The eternal flame was a project by the City of Newcastle and the Australian Government following a successful grant application through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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