• John Barnes (images © Mike Greenslade)

The sun shines on Paddy Bugden's Centenary commemoration

On a day of brilliant sunshine some 300-people gathered in Alstonville to commemorate the centenary of Patrick Bugden`s death and subsequent Victoria Cross award.

Initially relatives, friends, past and present service personnel, Rotarians, Ballina Council representatives and members of the public, assembled at and near the RSL hall for a very sociable morning tea, before moving down to the monument site to the accompaniment of piper Graeme Broadhead.

Image of Graham playing the bagpipes

Formal proceedings began with the mounting of the Military Guard provided by 1 RAR and this was followed by a blessing from one of Paddy`s relatives, Fr. Geoff Bugden.

A family representative Mr. Patrick Nunan then gave an eloquent and well-prepared account of the battle of Polygon Wood as he explained the circumstances under which Paddy carried out the repeated acts of outstanding and productive bravery for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The function was then honoured to have Mr Doug Baird the father of Australia`s latest VC winner (Cameron Baird VC MG) speak of the emotional struggle in which he and his wife Kaye find themselves. Doug had the audience spellbound.

Mr. John Barnes a Rotarian, the initiator of the monument and biographer of Paddy, then spoke of the incalculable value of the sacrifices made by Paddy and of the 136 others of the Alstonville plateau who did not return from WW1 and WW11. This was highlighted by the need to value and preserve our freedoms.

A dramatic flypast of a loud and low flying RAAF C-17A Globemaster transport aircraft then followed dipping its wing in salute as it flew past.

Veterans in the crowd wave at the passing Globmaster

The President of the Alstonville Sub-branch of the RSL Mr. Mark Quilligan then gave an interesting account of Paddy Bugden`s history and his Alstonville connections to a vast extended family that is preserving his memory.

This most moving ceremony then concluded with a bugler playing the Last Post, two minutes silence, the reciting of the Ode, Reveille, wreath laying and finally the Dismounting of the Guard.

The crowd then departed to the Federal Hotel for lunch and a well-deserved drink.

This was a memorable day that made us all proud to be Australian.

A thank you is extended to all who contributed in any way. Particularly the members of the Alstonville and other RSL bodies, Army units, Rotary, Alstonville Historical Society, Alstonville Schools, Ballina Shire Council, the extended Bugden family, RAAF, NSW Police, Federal Hotel, Chamber of Commerce, Ballina Advocate, Alstonville Scouts, Rural Fire Service and members of the public.

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