At today’s assembly, Brisbane Grammar School student leaders conducted the annual Anzac Day commemoration.
Most Australians of all ages have a consciousness of the importance and influence of Anzac Day on our national story. There is a stark contrast between the extraordinary opportunities for BGS graduates today with the stories of young BGS men whose lives were so tragically shortened during conflicts.
The message of their sacrifice is a simple but powerful one. This was a generation who responded to the call to serve a greater purpose than themselves. From its earliest beginnings, BGS has enabled its students to become not only good learners but also young men of good character with a spirit of service to others.
The assembly today began with a declaration of thanks to all Australians and New Zealanders who have served in times of war. In this centenary year of the founding of the Royal Australian Airforce, we then paid tribute to our Old Boys who flew in World War II. Of the 252 Old Boys who lost their lives in that conflict, 165 served in the RAAF.
The address focused on the stories of two fighter pilot aces. Gordon Olive DFC (BGS 1931) piloted a Spitfire from 1939 to 1941 and completed an astonishing 193 sorties. In the Battle of Britain he was credited with destroying five enemy aircraft. This included chasing a Messerschmitt across the English Channel and shooting it down off the French coast. Olive survived the war and later became a Trustee of the School and cadet commander. One of his cadets in the 1950s, the former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce, said of him:
“Gordon Olive was an example of the daring, pluck and humour that gave the RAAF its deserved reputation in the service of the RAF..... To me he was the Battle of Britain….He was a legend and an inspiration to us all.” (2013)
John Jackson DFC (BGS 1923) became a fighter ace in North Africa. Flying a Hawker Hurricane, he shot down three German Junkers in a single sortie on 18 February 1941. He later commanded 75 Squadron in their extraordinary defence of Port Moresby in early 1942. Jackson was shot down and killed on 28 April 1942 by a Japanese Zero fighter plane. Port Moresby’s aerodrome was later renamed in his honour.
Thanks to Tom Stunden, William Staib, Harry Anstey-Walsh, Aly Sultan, Campbell Watchirs and bugler Jack Duncan for conducting this service. The Grammar Marching Band will again be part of the Anzac Day march in the city on Sunday.