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GALLERY: Hunter pays its respects on Anzac Day

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Tens of thousands of people throughout the Hunter commemorated those who paid the ultimate price in battle on Anzac Day.

It’s been estimated more than 40,000 attended the Dawn Service in Newcastle alone, with big crowds registered at other locations in the region, from Port Stephens to Pelican in Lake Macquarie and out to Singleton and Muswellbrook.

Photo: Rod Thompson

In Maitland, the occasion also marked the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the city’s World War I Cenotaph in Maitland Park by mayoress Alice Fry in 1923.

Her great grandson Tony Fry was on hand on Tuesday 25 April to honour her contribution to the community.

Following the traditional March, the Catafalque Party, commanded by Flight Lieutenant Adam Nelson from 2 Squadron RAAF Base Williamtown, mounted the memorial to kick-start proceedings.

And, from there, the event went without a hitch.

Photo: Rod Thompson

“We’re delighted with the turnout, especially seeing so many children here with their parents or schools,” Maitland RSL sub-Branch treasurer Henry Meskauskas OAM said.

“Everyone knows the historical significance of Anzac Day.

“But, it’s also an opportunity to remember the sacrifices, by the men and women, for our way of life and to ensure the freedoms we have today.

“It is important to keep their memories alive for future generations.”

Photo: Rod Thompson

In the Shortland electorate, local MP Pat Conroy admitted it was a day of mixed emotions – a time for sorrow as well as pride.

“We mourn the loss of the more than 103,000 men and women who have died serving our country in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping and humanitarian operations,” the federal Minister for Defence Industry said.

“And, we admire the courage and mateship of those who landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and all those who came after, serving in Australia’s Navy, Army and Air Force.

“Anzac Day is a chance to share the stories of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things; people who once walked the streets of the towns and cities we call home.”

Photo: Rod Thompson

Mr Conroy identified one such man as Lance Corporal Harold Kay.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, he moved to Australia at the age of 18.

“At the time of his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force in February 1916, Harold was living in Boolaroo and working as a plumber’s mate,” Mr Conroy said.

“He sailed from Sydney with the 36th Battalion in May of that year.

“After training in the UK, his battalion was sent to France to fight in the trenches of the Western Front.”

Sadly, Lance Corporal Harold Kay was killed in action on 12 October 1917 at Passchendaele in Belgium.

He was 23.

Photo: Rod Thompson

“Back at home, his loved ones were left heartbroken,” Mr Conroy said.

“His fiancée, Vida Oswald of Speers Point, shared her sorrow with a grieving community in a message published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate.

“Writing on the first anniversary of his death, she said of Harold: ‘As he lived, he died – nobly’.

“A signet ring featuring a photograph of Lance Corporal Kay is held by the Australian War Memorial.

“Tiny and treasured, measuring just 8mm across, it is one of the smallest individual portraits in the collection.

“Today we remember Lance Corporal Harold Kay and all those who have lost their lives in service to Australia.

“We owe them all an eternal debt of gratitude.

“Lest we forget.”

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