The Open Door

Australia 2002: Bill Campbell

The reunion was in the heart of Brisbane at the Carlton Hotel. This gave those wanting to escape the happenings at the reunion an opportunity to shop and sample the night life.

Having already been traveling for two weeks, Ron McCaffrey and myself decided to complete a much needed re supply. However, the gods decided against that idea in the form of the Kiwi contingent enjoying a mid-morning ‘hair of the dog’. Therefore after updating news, views, jokes and gossip, we returned to the hotel in the mid-afternoon minus what we went out for. We managed to attend the ‘meet and greet’ function and knew we were here when we were greeted with, “Good to see yer, you Pommie Ba*&#!ds”.

Tuesday saw us at Gallipoli Barracks, a nostalgic place for some of the Aussies. A good introduction to the newly installed garden and Memorial to the Fallen by an impressive Digger caretaker. Onto the Sunshine Coast to visit Jim Irving’s (of TV fame) Aussie Zoo, where all things creepy and crawly found in Australia can be housed in natural surroundings. Like the crocodiles found in streams, snakes you'll find wrapped around your rafters, spiders found in the bathroom and Kookaburras of the type found on the lawn at four o’clock in the morning calling to their mates (not as bad a large bull Elk outside your window at 3 am in Canada — Editor). How it was achieved, I'm not going to ask, but we were next presented with a complete show-ground to ourselves, with simulators and roller coasters for the adventurous and carousels and swings for the more timid. Again a unique happening, very much enjoyed, and proved that everyone wanted to be eighteen again. Next into the world renowned Ettamogah Pub for a bush dinner where the main guests were the ADAA Patron, Maj. Gen. D. Ferguson and his good lady. Returning to the hotel after such an active day, we found ourselves entertaining the Kiwis with falling down water in plenty.

The next morning, hot air ballooning was declined in favour of a cruise and lunch. This gave us time to complete our re-supply. Pointed out on the cruise was the place where the early convicts arrived and worked, and the magnificent but now dormant warehouses of the wool barons. During the cruise a member of the ADAA contingent decided to take a well earned kip, much to the amusement of those around him. Back to the hotel for an afternoon of ‘intense entertainment’ which seems to have been enjoyed by all who attended. The girls, however, partook of their favourite pastime — shopping — at an outlet factory.

I must digress slightly here. Pat Slee’s father was a glider pilot at Arnhem and emigrated to Oz post-war. Pat has his father’s log book which shows of his participation, but Pat was anxious to have confirmation from the recognised authority. So, taking this on board, Ron McCaffrey phoned Holland and in the early hours of the 25th (local time), back came confirmation. It was decided not to tell Pat immediately, but to have the document framed and present it at a more appropriate time. Needles to say, some diverting ‘porkies’ had to be invented.

An early rise after that for the Anzac Day Dawn Service in Brisbane before returning to the hotel for breakfast and ‘Gunfire’. Pat Slee overcame the alcohol licence problem by producing a kettle with the AD badges of the four nations (I'm sure I saw the Rigger’s badge of the USA), and continuously toured the breakfast tables refilling the cups with rum. Needles to say some of the hotel’s other patrons were giving us inquiring looks, and I think that more than one accepted a taste or two. Then it was forming up for the main parade with the normal shuffling around and move here and there. Then we were ready to step off. The natives of Brisbane were friendly and received us well, especially the children.

After dinner we went on to another hotel for the post march gathering. A terrific back-to-back banter between the Transport Association leader and Brian Irving the ADAA President regarding their respective roles, especially as the Aussie AD wear a maroon beret now. It all ended with firm handshakes and laughter. Special guests were some of the original ‘Biscuit Bombers’ who are the equivalent of our Arnhem veterans, and are equally respected. Then back to the hotel for a clean up and change before departing to the ‘last man standing’. The three main contenders for last man standing were Pat Slee of the ADAA, Ron McCaffrey for UKADA, and ‘Ash’ Ashley for NZADA. It proved to be ‘nip and tuck’ until the Kiwi produced their secret weapon — chili vodka — which took the award back to their wonderful crew bar in New Zealand.

So to the last day, the 26th. Which was spent in a somewhat leisurely manner, shopping, piecing together the previous nights events, and meeting for the ‘hair of the dog’ lunch. Finally, best bib and tucker for an excellent farewell dinner complete with speeches, presentations, raffles, address swapping as well as more than one risqué joke. The presentation of the framed document for Pat Slee must have been the high spot of the evening. It all proved what joint Associations can achieve, and seriously, isn't that is what it is all about, especially when there is a will so to do. To conclude, the smooth running of the event is proof of the hard work of Brian Irving and his Committee. This also includes the support and help from the girls, let us never forget them. To you all, a most sincere and appreciative thank you. I look forward to seeing you all on home ground in 2003. So, onto New Zealand ...... but that's another story!!

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