Lest We Forget: LSV’s war heroes

Life Saving Victoria’s (LSV’s) volunteers have a deep sense of community, mateship and a commitment to serving others. This ANZAC Day, we looked at some of our volunteers who used their skills as lifesavers to serve in war. 

Anglesea SLSC member Barry “Skunk” Marsh was called up to serve in the Vietnam War.

Many Victorian lifesavers played pivotal roles in World War I and II and the Vietnam War, using their skills in leadership, first aid and fitness to serve their country.  

Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) president David Marsh knows the sacrifice of war all too well, with his father, respected club member Barry “Skunk” Marsh, and Barry’s best friend and fellow club member Bruce “Rabbit” Patterson called up to serve in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s.

“Dad and Rabbit were the greatest of mates growing up in the surf club and that sense of mateship and the bonds created while in the club only grew stronger while deployed overseas in the war,” Mr Marsh said. 

“Although not in the same unit, they did meet up in Vietnam, and I always remember a story my dad told me about them meeting in the bush while out on patrol. One was out of water and the other out of food, they were able to help each other out, just as they had on beach patrol so many times before.”

Bruce “Rabbit” Patterson and Barry “Skunk” Marsh, with their friend Doug Solly (left).

Skunk and Rabbit held numerous committee positions at Anglesea SLSC both pre- and post-Vietnam, continuing their selfless determination to help others. 

“I’m immensely proud of dad and the service he provided and sacrifice he made,” Mr Marsh said. 

“Equally, as club president I am proud of all our club members who have given so much by serving in conflict and peace keeping missions, including my wife Bronny, who is a current servicing member of the Australian Defence Force, holding the rank of flight lieutenant in the Air Force reserves. 

“Being a lifesaver teaches people resilience and a deep sense of mateship and pride, which I’m sure played, and continues to play an important part of those lifesavers who have and currently serve.”

Looking further back in history, at Allen Best’s 50 Years and More – A History of Surf Life Saving Victoria, we meet the lifesavers who served in World War I and II, including former Elwood Life Saving Club president Commander Stan Veale. 

Former Elwood LSC president and World War I and II war hero Commander Stan Veale.

Commander Veale was responsible for ordering Australia’s first shots fired in both world wars. 

“Veale served with the Australian-Naval and Miliary Expeditionary Force in German New Britain,” Best wrote. 

“The force was to take a German wireless station and thus became the first Australian unit to actually fight in the war. Veale found himself in charge of a field gun, firing at the enemy.” 

Fellow Elwood LSC member Sir Frank McNamara also served in both world wars in the Australian Imperial Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Air Force. 

Prior to World War I, he was transferred to the Australian Flying Corps to fly missions in Egypt and Palestine, during which he was awarded a Victoria Cross for the brave rescue of a fellow pilot.

Fellow Elwood LSC war hero Sir Frank McNamara.

“One of McNamara’s improvised bombs exploded prematurely, wounding him in the leg. Ignoring his wound he went to the rescue of fellow pilot, Captain David Rutherford, who had been forced to land in enemy territory with an engine problem,” Best wrote. 

“Despite heavy fire McNamara landed his aircraft, aware that Turkish cavalry was approaching.”

As we look back on the stories of lifesavers such as Barry Marsh, Bruce Patterson, Stan Veale and Frank McNamara, we are reminded of not only their sacrifice and bravery in war, but their continued service to community, something all 43,000 of our members share. 

Lest We Forget all the lifesavers who did, and currently serve in their mission to make the world a safer place for everyone.

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