UNEXPECTED HORN: Andrew Gale got the toot he wasn't expecting one Anzac Day as a police officer. Pictured: Steve Caines played the last post at a Maryborough Anzac Day ceremony.
UNEXPECTED HORN: Andrew Gale got the toot he wasn't expecting one Anzac Day as a police officer. Pictured: Steve Caines played the last post at a Maryborough Anzac Day ceremony. Valerie Horton

Police officer's gamble with fate at Anzac Day march

ANZAC day commemorations form some of my earliest memories. It's just something I've always done. Well at least since I slipped on a cub-uniform at five or six or so.

Marching through a throng of jeering Anti-Vietnam protesters in the early 1970's as a six-year-old, whilst proudly wearing my grandfathers WW1 medals is something I will never forget.

I couldn't believe what those people were doing. It set a steely resolve in my young belly that I carry to this day though. One determined to forever honour those who served.

As a police-officer I occasionally marched. Still wearing the same British War medal and Victory medal on my right breast.

Most of the time though, as a copper, I was engaged in supporting the parade rather than taking part. Traffic control. Keeping crowds back and so on.

Particularly when I worked in the inner city. These events were always well planned and seemed to go off without much of a hitch.

It wasn't always the case when I moved to take up postings in Western Queensland.

In one small town I served in, my Sergeant was a staunch ex Royal Australian Navy man. He was the president of the RSL sub-branch and liked to throw on a big bash every 25 April.

It started with a dawn service. With mandatory nips of rum before. Now I'd never drunk rum at that hour of the morning before, unless it was a continuation of the night before. It certainly showed me why they gave it to troops before they went "over the top."

It was a good thing that I got to go home for a little nap before the next service.

Three or four hours later the town was ready for the parade and service at the cenotaph outside the post-office in the town's main street.

I was strategically placed up one end of the main street doing "traffic control", though this was mostly taken care of by placing several barricades and "detour signs" directing the highway traffic down a bypass road. Or so I thought.

It was all going well until we got to the minute's silence. Suddenly, I was blasted loudly by a car horn from behind. A four-wheel drive towing an oversized caravan was bearing down at me and the ceremony beyond, along the closed road, and still at speed.

I leapt into action, threw myself over the parapet of the trench so to speak. After all, I was still ably fortified by more than one pre-dawn nip.

I stood my ground, showing the hand signal for stop as the Victorian grey-nomad locked up all four wheels of his car and the two on the caravan for good measure.

The rig stopped, just short of me. A few metres, feet, inches? I don't recall. The actual distance gets shorter with the years, the telling of the tale and the nips of rum.

I stared harshly at the driver and began to walk to his window. My eyes never leaving his.

Down the road the silence ended, and the bugler began to play "The Rouse". A bloody good thing it was loud. Or the crowd might have heard a little more than "lest we forget" coming from yonder road block.



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