Denis Buck and H P Kannengiesser, Gunnedah RSL sub-Branch writes:

Australians have always been ready to answer the call when they have been asked to assist in armed conflict, first from the British Empire and then from other like-minded nations.

In 1863 to 1864, approximately 2000 volunteers went to New Zealand during the Maori Wars, there are no records of killed or injuries to the volunteers. In 1885, 770 volunteers went to fight with the

British in the Sudan where three were wounded, there are no records of any volunteers being killed.

The country, once again, answered the call for volunteers to fight in South Africa during the Boer War between October 11, 1899 and May 31, 1902. 

At first, volunteers were from different states and then from the new Commonwealth of Australia, 16,363 enlisted with 518 being killed, 538 wounded and 100 were held as prisoner of war. Five hundred and sixty volunteers went to China during the Boxer Rebellion with no recorded injuries or death.

On August 4, 1914, Australia entered on a request from Britain, a new phase of war fighting for the newly formed Australian Imperial Forces and the Royal Australian Navy.

During World War I more than 421,809 Australians served in the military with 331,781 serving overseas. More than 60,000 Australians lost their lives and 137,000 were wounded. 

As a percentage of forces committed, this equalled a casualty rate of almost 65 per cent, one of the highest casualty rates among the British Empire forces. The financial cost of the war to the Australian government was £188,480,000 equivalent to approximately A$450,000,000  in today’s money.

Those catastrophic casualties, especially of those who returned with illnesses, broken bones, broken spirits and certainly unforgettable memories.

Because of this the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia was formed in 1916, became the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia in 1940, and became the Returned Services League of Australia in 1965. The change to its current name, Returned and Services League of Australia, was made in 1990 to reflect the organisation’s concern for current as well as former servicemen and servicewomen.  

Since that first world war to end all wars, Australian sailors, soldiers and airmen, have served in all theatres of war and peacekeeping and will keep on serving wherever the Australian government sends them. They will do their duty, as all who served before them have done.

The membership of the RSL and its sub-Branches has fallen drastically. The belief that the sub-Branches have a lot of money is a myth. The RSL does not own the RSL clubs and their pokies’ revenue. They are private entities, owned like all other clubs and under an entirely different system. 

The RSL sub-Branches function as a charitable organisation governed by the Charitable Organisation Act and rely entirely on fundraising and Gunnedah sub-Branch charges a yearly voluntary membership levy of $10 to assist with office supplies, etc.

The Gunnedah RSL sub-Branch has now entered into a very difficult time, its membership has now declined to the lowest level in many a year. All WWII members have passed away, our oldest member is a Korean War veteran.

This is a call for all past and present serving members of the Australian Defence Force or their Allies who are not RSL members to come forward give us a call, visit and have a chat. As long as you have spent just one day in uniform either full time, reserve or national service, you are eligible to become a member. No overseas service is required.

If the numbers of members of the sub-branch do not increase, the day may come where the Gunnedah RSL sub-Branch will have to close its doors.

Ceremonies that would normally be conducted by the RSL sub-Branch would take on a different look because there would be different organisations that would be conducting them.

Every year, on April 25 (Anzac Day), August 18 (Long Tan Day) and November 11 (Remembrance Day), we remember those who gave their lives and those who were wounded while fighting for their country. 

Help us, the Gunnedah RSL sub-Branch, to keep alive the memories of those who paid the supreme sacrifice or carry the wounds of war for our freedom of our nation, Australia.

Types of membership include service member – any former or current service member of the Australian Defence Force or armed forces of its allies.

Unattached member – a current or former service member who does not wish to join a sub-branch but would like to join RSL NSW as a ‘virtual’ member and receive regular communications, such as newsletters, that keep you informed of events, latest news and support updates.

Affiliate member – a service member, a cadet or officer of cadets or a member of the public who has provided significant service to the League who would like to volunteer their time to assist the sub-branch. 


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