It’s a tradition that began almost a decade ago when Phil Pauley, a member of our Royal Australian Navy, had his ashes scattered at sea as part of the Currumbin RSL Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Since then, the Ashes to Sea ceremony has continued to grow in reputation as a heartfelt and memorable occasion for local families. Now, as part of the annual Currumbin RSL Dawn Service, approximately 20 surf boats from clubs across the Gold Coast head out to sea to spread the ashes of our most recently fallen veterans and relations.
The boats head to Currumbin Rock where the ashes are scattered. Veterans are there honoured with a remarkable display of 100 oars being lifted into the skies in unison while family members watch from the shoreline.
According to one of the organisers Mark Owens from the Currumbin Surf Life Saving Club, the burial ashes released at sea is a final and fitting gesture for our veterans.
“It’s a very good way for our ex-servicemen and women to be put to rest by their families,” he said.
“I know a lot of family members find it quite emotional but they say they couldn’t pick a better occasion to scatter the ashes and they know their loved ones would have been happy with their decision.”
Mr Owens also acknowledging it can be an emotional time for Surf Life Saving crews, some of whom have also lost family to war.
“Our boaties take a photo of the person whose ashes they’re spreading, which makes it more personal,” said Mr Owens.
“It’s such an honour for us to give something back to the veterans who gave so much for us.”
This year there will be upwards of twenty people people laid to rest including three married couples.
Amongst them is Bluey, a treasured member of the Currumbin RSL. Lewis ‘Bluey’ Smith was the last surviving member of the Australian Garrison Artillery group that defeated Japanese naval troops in August 1942 during the battle of Milne Bay; the first of many battles in the Pacific campaign in which allied troops decisively defeated Japanese land forces.
Also honoured will be Veteran Doug Martin, Currumbin RSL Patron and a surviving crewman from the HMAS Canberra that was severely damaged off the Solomon Islands in August 1942 in a surprise attack by Japanese naval forces. Known as the Battle of Savo Island, the HMAS Canberra was hit 24 times in less than two minutes and 84 of Doug’s fellow crew were killed. Surviving the initial attack, Doug followed orders to abandon ship and the Canberra was sunk the next day by a torpedo from a US destroyer.
This year marks the centenary of when our veterans returned from of WW2 and the war was finally over, but never forgotten.
The Ashes to Sea ceremony will occur during the Currumbin RSL Dawn Service on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at Elephant Rock, Currumbin.