It begins with their decision to have the courage to apply and believe that they have the necessary character traits that will see them through. Australians are optimistic by nature. Their leadership skills are developed through hard work and commitment to raise the necessary funds to embark on this journey. These skills learnt will be beneficial to our nation as these young people become adults and take up the mantle of leadership within their communities. They know that hard work and sacrifice are worthy goals in themselves. It is this aspect of the tour that is the most satisfying and important feature to me as a teacher at Collie Senior High School.
As an educational venture, the tour has so many benefits. The knowledge that the students gain about Australia's involvement in WW1 is truly remarkable in its depth and detail, which is only further extended by walking the ground where it actually happened. The students gain an appreciation for the difficulties faced by our Diggers, their strength and determination to prove themselves to the world as Australians and how those men realised that our land had bred a character and culture that was uniquely our own.
The enormity of the conflict becomes apparent to the students as they realise the shocking cost that was inflicted upon all sides and the sad and terrible loss of nearly an entire generation of Australians. The students took great pride to learn their poems, read at the graves and memorials of family members and other significant places, and showed the utmost respect and dignity on all occasions. I was ever so proud of them all.
Their interest and willingness to ask questions of our guides about the battles and places they saw demonstrated just how motivated and moved by the stories they heard. This was commented on by our guide in France and Belgium, Mr Colin Gillard of Cobbers Tours, who said that the students were an extremely positive and interested group. This is testament to his skill and professionalism and ability to impart knowledge to all in a way that brings alive the history in the peaceful countryside of the Somme and Flanders. The tour would not be the same without his in depth knowledge and we thank him for his continued association with Collie SHS.
A feature of the tour is our insistence on providing an educational experience. Most Australians who attended this year's Dawn Service at Gallipoli, arrived during the night and left after the service at Lone Pine, having seen little and without much of a context as to what really happened during the eight months the Anzacs battled the Turks. We return two days later for a fully guided tour, again by a specialist and professional, Mr Izzet Yildiri who provided an in depth analysis of the campaign from both sides point of view and showed us around all of the significant places. Again our deepest thanks are extended to him.
Our students have learnt so much. As a group they were united as mates can only be. The bonds formed during this trip will last a lifetime along with the memories. They have been fantastic ambassadors for our town and nation and Australians everywhere commented on how wonderful it was to see them in uniform and engaged in what they were doing. Turkish people would smile and say "Anzac" evincing the bond that has formed between our two nations. It was great to see the students immersing themselves in the cultures that they were exposed to, whether it was language, food or custom. They were prepared to give things a go. Another Australian trait.
A tour like this does not happen without a great deal of input from many people. The parents and families of the students were wonderful in their support of the students and aims of the tour.
The Collie community for its generosity and support were as always outstanding and it is a feature of our town that few outside it realise and something we need to hang on to. Collie is the embodiment of a great Australian country town.
The parent volunteers, Anthea Abbott, Lisa Gillespie, Kellye Thompson, Rod Salmeri and Wayne Sanford were a wonderful and dedicated bunch of people who made my job that much easier through their willingness to dig in and do everything necessary, with humour and camaraderie, to keep our students safe and well looked after. They provided guidance and support to the students when needed on a range of issues that they encountered as young adults travelling in faraway places. I thank them truly as compatriots who shared with me in witnessing the growth and development of this great bunch of young Australians.
To Jeremy De Vos, our RSL veteran who was always in great humour and, dare I say it, voice (it must have been quiet down at the RSL!) as he freely did everything possible to help and assist all on the tour. He always made sure to be the last of the party, shepherding all before him and shared his knowledge of the services and its history with the students. Nothing was too much for Jeremy to do and he proudly represented the Collie-Cardiff RSL. Thank you Jeremy it was great to have you aboard.
The staff who assisted me; Dale Miller, Jodie Hanns, Joy Walkerden, John Bylund and Dave Washbourne. I had a wonderful team behind me who took initiative and leadership whenever it was required both in the organisation and conducting of the tour. All played significant parts in making this tour a reality and a success. Thank you guys it was a pleasure to share the experience with you all.
To the school and the Principal, Mr Domenic Camera, who supported the tour and recognised the value and importance of it. This program marks our school as one of the best in Western Australia that strives to value add to education. It could not be possible without the assistance of so many within the school. A special thank you to the office ladies who sigh every time they see me but still do all they can to help. They truly are good sports. Collie SHS provides an educational experience second to none in a range of areas and I commend those parents who have made the decision to send their children to Collie.
To my wife and family who put up with me and the time the tour takes from them with me. Without their support and understanding there would be no tour and they alone are the only casualties of the tour. With love and gratitude I thank them.
Finally to the students themselves. A wonderful bunch of students who earned the right to go but still felt it a privilege. They have proved themselves to the world and I thank them deeply for their commitment, attitude, energy and behaviour. I challenge them to take what they have learned into the future and make real the promise and leadership that we all see in them.
I will leave you with the last poem we say on the tour which was written by Steven Davies on the very first Anzac tour in 2007.
Thank you,Ed Croft
Memories of War by Steven Davies
We made a monumental journeyWhere history does abound.
Over several continents of our world
We walked the battle ground.
The horror of war has hit us hard
What a lucky group we are.
We come in peace and lay a wreath
For the lives that were lost afar.
It was not their land they fought for
They were fighting under orders.
But grave sites show their bodies lay
Within another country's borders.
On the Western Front the battle raged
In Belgium and in France.
They gave their lives for us that live
To halt their foe's advance.
The people there honour them well
For each night the bugle sounds.
Lest we forget, we all do say
As the Last Post greets their town.
This morning we gather at Anzac Cove
Many thousand kindred soul.
To pay our last respects to the fallen men
Who's bells no longer toll.
We walked amongst the monuments
And read upon the grave.
The senseless loss of such young life
When we visualise their age.
For we are already older
Than some of them that died.
Some of us have gently wept
Most of us have cried.
We feel your spirits on these shores
You will never be alone.
But we leave you now to rest in peace
The fortunate- go home.
Pre-dawn Galliploli 2007