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A personal pilgrimage to Gallipoli
Jim Kelly, a VFBV delegate and CFA life member of the Belgrave Heights & South Brigade, is among thousands of Australians making the pilgrimage to Gallipoli for the Anzac Day dawn and Lone Pine services.
“I was quite amazed when we got the ballot,” he said.
“It will be very emotional to be there because it’s been 100 years since the landing and this dawn service will be momentous not only for Australia and New Zealand but also for Turkey.”
Jim has close family ties to the events of 100 years ago – his uncle served at Gallipoli, Belgium and France in 1915.
“My uncle, Francis Desmond Kelly, was an original ANZAC who landed with the 27th Battalion and served at Gallipoli from August to the end of December.
“He served at Walkers Ridge just below what was known as ‘the Nek’ at Gallipoli, and as he came ashore he would’ve been confronted by the sight of all of those bodies of soldiers who died at the Nek.
“He was one of the fortunate ones to survive.”
Despite being on a personal trip, Jim has volunteered to take two plaques with him– one on behalf of VFBV and one on behalf of CFA – which he is planning to present to the Eceabat Fire Brigade, the closest brigade to Gallipoli.
“Eceabat is the brigade that normally attends any scrub fires across Gallipoli, similar to what we get here in northern Victoria, so we thought that would be most fitting.”
North East Region Assistant Chief Officer Garry Cook said he was pleased Jim would be representing both CFA and the VFBV at the site.
“This will be a significant occasion for all Australians and for those visiting in person, such as Jim Kelly, and to have the opportunity to also represent CFA and VFBV will be a great privilege, particularly considering his connection to the events 100 years ago,” ACO Cook said.
Jim’s eldest son is a historian at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and, out of sheer chance, Jim and his wife have been placed on his son’s tour while in Gallipoli.
Part of this tour will include a boat trip off the beaches of Gallipoli, where Jim plans to leave another small memento on behalf of his brigade member, Steve Rautman. Steve’s grandfather also served there and survived, dying in Australia in 1960.
“Steve has given me a small penny which is wrapped up with an obituary. When we’re on the boat they will tell us where the Battalions landed and that’s where I plan to slide it over the edge of the boat on behalf of Steve.”
Jim also plans to commemorate the grandfather of another brigade member, Craig Dennis, Deputy Group Officer for the Ranges Group. Private Arthur Neal landed in Gallipoli with the 7th Battalion AIF. He was wounded in battle and returned to Australia.
District 13 Operations Manager David Renkin said it would be a huge honour to pay respects to the Anzacs on the land where they lost their lives.
“It’s good to see Jim going across to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the landings and recognising past members of CFA who served.”
Photos to come.