Last Monday, Cootamundra commemorated the 107th year since Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli, with two respectful ANZAC Day services. Ken You, President of the Cootamundra RSL Sub-Branch, reflected on the day.
“I think attendance wise; it was perhaps a little down from what we’ve had in previous year, but it was still good to see a nice crowd turnout,” You said.
“I think perhaps the school holidays and a lot of people being away affected that slightly.
“It was good to see Ian Mason come over from Wagga at the last moment which was great. His speech was to the point and respectful.”
Ken has a deep knowledge and background of the army, with a large period of his life dedicated to the service.
“I had 30 years in uniform. I started off in the cadets in 1961- 62. Then I moved to the CMF/Army Reserve in 1963-64. I went on to full-time duty in the CMF during 1965-67. In 1967, I joined the regular army and my named got pulled out of the ballot for national service,” Ken recalled.
“But because I’ve had two years full-time service, they said they didn’t want me. So, I joined the regular army and I served for 23 years.
“I went to Vietnam in 1968-69. I became a battalion clerk, and we prepared the documentation orders for the battalion com- mander to issue to his companies to tell them what they’re going to do on the operations and expectations of enemy ac- tion.
“I didn’t actually have any active service as such. But as part of the LOB (Left on Base), we had to do tail patrols around the front of your sector of influence and I had three or four of those.
“Halfway through the tour, one of the company clerks wasn’t coping with the situation very well and I was asked by the chief clerk if I could go down and take over the company and exchange positions, which I agreed to.
“I was sent down and I really enjoyed being a company clerk.” Ken also recalled some of the most challenging and con- fronting aspects of his role during the Vietnam war.
“Probably the worst part of the duties was when it was enemy action, and we lost a soldier. I had to go down and identify them as company clerk,” he said.
Ken puts his service in the army as one of the major factors of his large involvement with the RSL Sub-Branch and Coota- mundra Legacy.
“I enjoyed being in the Army. I had some very good postings. One way of giving back to the community was by doing the
RSL and joining Legacy, both of those organisations are here in Coota and I enjoy the work.
“Most people know me by sitting down in front of Woolies and selling raffle tickets for those organisations.”
Ken believes that Cootamundra fully embraces the ANZAC spirit, as do most rural towns throughout the country.
“I mingled a little bit and spoke to people and the first couple I met were from Newcastle. They weren’t locals and they wanted to come out here to experience the country atmosphere during ANZAC Day,” he said.
“A country service is I think is very personal, emotional, and very beneficial.
“We’ve got to reach out and get more people and especially younger people involved in the RSL. We’ve got younger veterans coming through but not everyone is coming through. We are hoping to get a drop-in centre for veterans, which we are seeking grants for.
“It’s 54 years since I was in Vietnam, and of course our membership is getting older and older.
“Hopefully in the near future, we’ll get that. That’ll be good. That’ll draw in new blood. The schools need to know the importance of ANZAC Day and to keep that tradition alive.”