The last major assembly for RAEME Veterans was held in Albury/Wodonga over the ANZAC weekend of 1999, with some 268 attending, including partners.
With the passing of the years, the old and bold numbers are dwindling like leaves falling during autumn. So it was conceived by Phillip Bond, a 1969 nasho electrician, 106 Field Workshop, that the spirit of the RAEME Corps was due for a shot in the arm.
Thus the "Gathering of RAEME 2004" for all past and present members was born with special emphasis placed on seeking the Vietnam veterans not seen or heard of since those confused days.
As a result of the effort of Phillip Bond and others, the roll book recorded more than 266 plus partners on parade.
On this ANZAC weekend in 2004, we assembled, members and partners, for three days of celebration of seeing old matesand making new acquaintances. The RAEME Corp flame was burning with a passion.
Attendees came in numbers from all parts of the country to make their contribution to the gathering; one member's address being Saibai Island via Thursday Island, and then there was Ned, who travelled to attend the Gathering of RAEME via South Africa.
This is what took place:
Friday 23rd April 2004
Meet and Greet at Kedron Wavell Services Club, Community Room.
The Meet and Greet on Friday afternoon and evening was to kick off from 1600hrs.
When the workers arrived to set up at 1430hrs there were already a few RAEME members waiting, and eager to get going.
Quickly things were set up and doors were open from 1500hrs, an hour ahead of schedule.
All attending logged in to register and collect their merchandise; badged shirts, caps, stubby holders and bottles of port.
Some settled down and enjoyed meeting one another with laughter and rejoicing; others talked to their mates, of good times and those no longer with us; all spoke of how much they appreciated this Reunion.
On display were posters, old maps, framed pictures, a collection of Rising Sun Badges from 1902 to 1991, photos that had been printed and laminated, including the Australian and RAEME flag.
To top it off, Phil Bond and son Luis supplied a 1000 photo slide power point presentation. Dennis Norman (NSM 106 Fd Wksp .. 1970/71) also supplied a disc with many old photo's and Lyn Gallagher supplied a disc on recovery transport over the years. Altogether it was a professional and entertaining presentation.
Snacks and refreshments flowed in abundance and the evening continued past the closing hour.
Saturday 23rd April 2004 .. Morning
Gathering at 7CSSB (Borlace Club) Enoggera Army Base
Another eager day for many. When we arrived at 0945hrs to set up the Sausage Sizzle, several dozen were already waiting.
By the time we unloaded the goodies, people were starting to flow in like a tide, with 300 plus attending.
Once again the memorabilia display was set up by Phillip Bond (106 Fd Wksp) and Des Kearton (1 Armd Sqn Wksp); a laptop providing the power point presentation from the previous evening.
The serving members who were to form the Banner Guard for the March the next day were put through their paces by Major Grant Coombe to ensure that the ANZAC Day Parade went off without a hitch.
Those of the Guard with free time were invited to join us at the Borlace Club for the Sausage Sizzle lunch and meet the old and bolds.
The regular soldiers were most hospitable to us and reluctantly the bell was rung at 1330 hrs ending a most enjoyable lunch.
Saturday 23rd April 2004 .. Evening
Reunion Dinner at Kedron Wavel Services Club
We had 370 at this function commencing at 1730 and seated by 1840hrs
Frank Maloney was our Master of Ceremonies. As always, on such occasions, he had difficulty keeping the speakers to time, but, managed more or less to heavy them.
Milton Pearson gave the Welcome Address. Alan Jago said Grace
The buffet style dinner then commenced.
The food was excellent and plentiful, as were the fruit and cheese platters; topping it off were large servings of cakes sweetening even the grumpiest of old diggers.
Music and entertainment was provided by a group called Radio Saigon, with many couples dancing to the sounds of the 60s and 70s.
A raffle was held and the women enjoyed the perfume prizes and the male members ended up with Port and Chivas Regal Scotch. The major prize was the "Miniature Corp Banner" that was won by Bill Withers (ex 102 Fd Wksp), who had travelled from Victoria for the reunion.
Our Guest of Honour and Speaker for the evening was Brigadier Douglas Formby (RAAC) accompanied by his wife Beverley.
He spoke of his long association with RAEME and highlighted the high standards of professionalism that was always evident. It was pleasing that he noted the large number of ex NSM in attendance and complimented them, both RAAC and RAEME, for their invaluable contribution during the years of the Vietnam War.
Our well-known Lt Col Les Edis introduced and thanked Brig Formby for his attendance and kind words.
Brigadier Ross Grant, an ex Head of Corps and currently Representative Colonel Commandant, also addressed the gathering speaking on the modern RAEME and how well it does its job under the extremely difficult circumstances that prevail. He reported the accomplishments of the Corps in glowing terms and spoke of the serving soldiers in a manner that all could easily recognise, without ambiguity.
Sadly he advised that he would be relinquishing his position as Representative Colonel Commandant having accepted a position in UK. We thank him for his excellent work with the RAEME Association in Queensland and wish him well.
Claude Palmer then paid tribute to John Sinclair and Phillip Bond for their ongoing contributions to RAEME and its veterans.
He mentioned the huge work done by John in developing the 106 Field Workshop website, and Phillip for his work in organizing the Gathering 2004.
The Toast to the Corps was made by the inimitable and entertaining John Bailey (nasho & ex 106.
The Dinner was a huge success and enjoyed by all.
The goodwill and fellowship evident in the room was almost overwhelming.
ANZAC Day ... Sunday, 25th April 2004 ... Dawn Service
Assembly, King George Square ...Service, ANZAC Square
When The Dawn Service Parade Marshal called assembly at 0410hrs some 250 plus lined up in three ranks for the short march to ANZAC Square.
A large number of RAEME were in attendance.
The crowd watching was estimated at more than 10,000.
The service commenced at 0423hrs with the last post at 0428hrs followed by two minutes silence and the hymn "O God our Help in Ages Past".
There was a short address by the Governor of Queensland, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, AC, followed by the placing of floral tributes at the Shrine.
As always it was a very touching and dignified ceremony.
ANZAC Day ... Sunday, 25th April 2004 ... ANZAC DAY Parade
Assembly, Elizabeth and George Street
For this year, and for the first time ever at an ANZAC Day Parade, the Corps marchedThe H.R.H. The Prince Phillip, the Colonel-In-Chief RAEME Banner, with Banner Guard.
Honouring this, the RAEME Banner and the Queensland RAEME Association, with the assembled members of the Corps behind them, was placed immediately behind the World War 2 contingents.
The ANZAC Parade commenced with a Fly Past of F111's at 1000hrs.
The RAEME members were out in force and were lined right up to George Street; many remarking that they had greatly enjoyed the functions of "Gathering of RAEME" and others were apologetic for not attending.
The serving RAEME soldiers arrived and looked splendid in uniform and many commented on how young they were; we too, were once that young once, in a far away past that now eludes us and is only a dream.
Major Grant Coombe was in command of the Banner Guard of 120 soldiers with the Australian Army Band following
The remainder of us, just on 400, our biggest turnout ever, followed them.
ANZAC Day ... Sunday, 25th April 2004 ... ANZAC DAY Lunch
Port Office Hotel .. Margaret and Edwards Streets
Following the march we all retired to the Port Office Hotel for lunch with partners.
Our numbers swelled to just over 600.
We were delighted that so many of the serving soldiers joined for the occasion. Those young men and women were an absolute credit to their profession. Their bearing, turnout and willingness to be a part of us on this day was warmly felt by all.
In summary there are many people whose efforts directly or indirectly contributed to make The Gathering of RAEME 2004 the outstanding success that it was. However Phillip and Phyllis Bond are at the top of the list. All of us in RAEME owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their untiring efforts to bring this event together.
So very much was given and received by all who celebrated The Gathering of RAEME 2004; so much joy and, quietly, the odd but hidden tear; those who couldn't come were remembered with stories and in fondness.
Our mateship endures