Aussie Surf Life Savers
In the great land down under, there are many colorful snapshots of the Australian people at work and play in a free and easy way of life.
Shearers, drovers, swagmen, footy, cricket, Melbourne Cups and the ever alert bronze surf life savers are very much part of that scene.
Who among us would not be familiar with the young men and women marching on the beaches in those special parades with blue skies, coloured flags and booming surf as back-drops?
The very presence of the men and women who volunteered their time for duty on so many beaches scattered throughout our Nation has been so readily ingrained in our image of OZ. I would suggest there are few among us who have not read of, or watched such a scene with surf life savers on duty.
When it comes to teamwork and the determination to make vision a reality, look no further than the brilliant initiative by the Surf Live Saver Movement to form the Nippers Group. Today, such members are seen on the many beaches throughout our nation. It is in such an environment where these nippers, (our very young) learn and practice so many of the personal and collective qualities essential in life. One can only hope there are politicians who can understand, support and promote such a scheme which plays a significant role in the development of our youth.
An example of recognition for such service to our nation by these volunteers is a national memorial located on Coogee Beach. The memorial depicts both a soldier and life- saver searching the waves and far beyond. This emotive image does tell a story of those who served the community as volunteers on the beaches and sadly made the supreme sacrifice in war in defence of our nation’s precious way of life. Let there be no doubt that we too must guard such a priceless legacy for future generations of Down Under to enjoy and pursue.
Those we speak of shared strong qualities such as courage, respect, endurance, mate-ship, self- discipline, confidence, initiative, teamwork, accepting responsibility and risking personal safety to help someone in difficulty. Today’s youth who patrol the beaches continue to emulate such example and hold the proud torch high.
All the qualities I have mentioned were (and always will be) very much the requirement for soldiers in war. Thus when the bugle called for citizens to enlist, it follows that the surf life saver on enlistment quickly developed into a very capable soldier. It mattered not the campaign, from Gallipoli to today’s conflicts throughout a very troubled and complex world.
As well as the memorial I have spoken of, there are many located at other surf live saving clubs where there are proud inscriptions listing club members who went beyond the rolling waves to foreign places never to return.
While resting between battles, how many of their thoughts would have been of home? Perhaps they sensed the sharp tang of the salt air and that familiar booming of crashing waves as they searched the breaking green surf and beyond for signs of trouble?
Their deeds, so often without names, are proudly recorded in many pages of bloody war, from Gallipoli to other battlefields of the old world. A short time later, their sons and daughters who fought a further global conflict on land, sea and air were added to the list. The madness of war continues to this very day and with it is the call for our youth to serve. Among them are still those youngsters who exchange surfing gear for a rifle and slouch hat
No matter where they served, from Gallipoli to Afghanistan and beyond, there are so many battlefields where youngsters mid the horror of it all dreamt their final thoughts of home, complete with loved ones, golden beaches, a friendly sun and a playful, mischievous surf.
This very day, yet another generation carries the torch and is ever present on our beaches, ever ready to save life. They and the youngsters to follow in their footsteps are certainly true blue Aussies. They, like those who patrolled the beaches before them make our nation proud. I have no doubt that those who follow will continue to preserve such a priceless icon which tells so much of our nation and its way of life.
Let me close with these lines dedicated to
Lt John Fraser, killed in action, Vietnam and all others who in different times and places swapped the line and reel for a slouch hat and gave all in far distant places for their nation.
Bronze Sentries on Duty
See them marching proudly on a golden sandy beach
Young guardians who for those in strife in cruel surf do reach
Volunteers, disciplined, alert and ready to give their all
When war clouds gather, they answer the Nation’s call
Swapping surf ski and reel for a slouch hat and gun
Proudly marching, no matter when or where, always as one
Listen now to the sound of crashing waves’ on the sandy shore
Calling absent friends, once on duty here, before they sailed to war
George Mansford © August 2016