War veteran Barry Kelly with grandchildren Laura (left) and Jack Baills who wears his great-grandfather Edward John Kelly’s war medals and was born on Vietnam Veterans Day.
War veteran Barry Kelly with grandchildren Laura (left) and Jack Baills who wears his great-grandfather Edward John Kelly’s war medals and was born on Vietnam Veterans Day.

Anzac Day a family affair

A WARWICK World War II soldier has come out in support of a controversial move, which would see children banned from marching with veterans on Anzac Day.

Stoddart Diggles, who served in WWII, said he would like to see children removed from the “veteran’s ranks” of the march allowing the focus to be purely on returned servicemen.

His comments come in the wake of a contentious decision by Brisbane’s Anzac Day Combined Parade Committee to ban children from marching on April 25.

The committee has publically defended their move on the grounds it allows the parade’s spotlight to remain on servicemen and women.

Mr Diggles admitted he wasn’t totally opposed to children’s involvement conceding they should be allowed to march within school groups.

“There are far too many children in the march and it detracts from the servicemen,” Mr Diggles said.

“I don’t think children should ever march within the ranks, it is just not right.

“In the early days children stood on the sidelines and cheered the parade or waited at the cenotaph – that was far more appropriate.

“I suppose marching with their school is all right as long as it’s after the servicemen.”

But there are no moves to ban the practice of children marching alongside relatives in Warwick’s Anzac Day parade next month.

Yesterday Warwick RSL sub-branch deputy president John Skinner said children would be allowed and even encouraged to march next to relatives during the April 25 parade down Palmerin Street.

“There are no moves to block children marching here,” Mr Skinner said.

“Personally I am disappointed by the Brisbane move, but I do understand the size of the parade has influenced their decision.

“For me one of the most important things we can do on Anzac Day is encourage children to play a part.”

It is a position Mr Skinner takes personally – this year his five grandchildren will share the honour of wearing war medals which belonged to himself and his grandfather in the local parade.

“I believe it is important children are given an opportunity to show their respect and reverence for the day and to remember their grandparents and great grandparents,” he said.

Yet others like Veterans Support Advocacy Services Australia Warwick president Steve Mackie can see the case for both sides.

Mr Mackie said, while he supported children’s involvement in Anzac Day parades, he understood the concerns of returned servicemen and women.

“Veterans need to always be able to march together, but we do need to encourage the next generation to be involved so it’s a fine line to walk,” Mr Mackie said.

“The safety of elderly diggers needs to be paramount and their war efforts need to be respected.

“But I think the move by the Brisbane parade committee is regrettable – surely all we need is some simple considerations. Perhaps children marching should be old enough to understand the solemnity of the occasion and not get in the way of ageing veterans.

“Maybe we need to limit how many children walk with individual relatives and ensure they walk at the rear of the veteran’s group.”

With flexibility he said diggers and children could march and “share the memory and significance” of Anzac Day.

Others like Vietnam veteran Barry Kelly insist the younger generations of Australians need to be encouraged and allowed to be involved in the parade.

Mr Kelly, who is Warwick RSL sub-branch secretary, said in country towns it was imperative children carried on the tradition as the veteran population aged and digger numbers dwindled.

“Is there anything more special than wearing granddad’s medals and marching in his honour?” he asked.

“There is a special magic in seeing a young child marching in memory of someone who was important to them.

“School kids these days have a wealth of knowledge about the Anzacs and in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the day.”

Mr Kelly said this April his three grandchildren would march in the Warwick parade wearing medals he and his father had earned in different campaigns for Australia.

“This is a solemn day and a special event but marching is the way children show respect for those who fought to give them the freedom they enjoy today.”



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