Saturday, 10 August 2013

An angel remembered

Jack Wilkinson's active service with the 15th Battalion in 1919 lasted just six months, but it created a connection that would endure for the rest of his life.

After the war, many returned men resolved to preserve the bonds forged in battle through clubs or associations. The troops of the 15th Battalion had used "Angels" as a code word in the trenches and so named their group the Angels Remembrance Club . Jack was an enthusiastic member and frequent office bearer over the next quarter century.

The Angels Remembrance Club was noteworthy not only for its work in supporting those who came home but also for the vigour with which they fought to protect the memory of those who did not. When the observance of Armistice Day waned in the late 1930s, it was the Angels (with Jack as Secretary) who strove to maintain its importance in the public eye. They were vocal critics of any plans for military reorganisation that might lessen the perceived stature of the 15th.

Many ex-service organisations held annual dinners during Exhibition Week when members who had returned to their homes in the bush might be in town. But the most significant gathering of old soldiers was always for Anzac Day.

Jack Wilkinson died on 24 April 1944 and some might say that he missed Anzac Day. Few who did attend the march would have noticed that the men of the 15th Battalion gave a second salute that day; and fewer still would have recognised its significance. In its report of the Parade on the following morning, The Courier Mail showed that some connections can never be broken.

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