A deeply moving part of the Currumbin RSL Group’s ANZAC Dawn Service each year is the burial of diggers’ ashes at sea.
Initiated by the then RSL’s President, Mr Ron Workman OAM, in 2000, the Burial at Sea recognises a request by an ex-serviceman or woman to have their ashes scattered at sea to be laid to rest.
The ceremony is facilitated by Currumbin RSL and Currumbin Viking Surf Lifesaving Club Surfboat teams. The age of crew members this year ranges between Under 19 women to a 74 year old male.
The 20 strong fleet this year will form a guard of honour and head out on the waves with the diggers’ ashes. Crews are often at risk by going to sea before first light and some years contending with large ocean swells.
Rowers are on station at first light to respond to the Piper’s “Amazing Grace” during which one member of each crew recites “The Ode of Remembrance” whilst the ashes are put to rest.
Oars are then lifted to the vertical position in salute of respect. The crews then down oars and row out to sea.
The sight on the waves beyond iconic Elephant Rock at Currumbin as the sun rises and buried ones’ families watch, brings many to tears.
This year the vale of veterans to be buried at sea is 33. Most of these souls are WWII veterans.
Mark Owens, Boat Captain of the Vikings Surf Lifesaving Club says “It’s an honour to lay to rest these diggers who put their hand up for their country.”
“No rower who has been asked to participate has ever said ‘No’ and I have a waitlist of rowers. It can be hard work but after all, it is the best seat in the house and our
greatest privilege to be involved in such an iconic way.” Owens adds.
It’s considered a fitting end to a soldiers passing to be put to rest on the sea at first light when they have attended the Dawn Service next to the ocean over so many years.
Boat crews in 2019 include Glen Williams, an Australian Surfboat crew finalist who will lay his grandfather’s ashes to rest at sea. Also on board, is David Dwight, a long term member of the Club whose grandfather landed at Gallipoli. He never misses the row out.
On conclusion of the Service the traditional Ron Workman Cup rowing race for shore occurs. Once ashore and to finish the race a short run to consume a Rum and Milk in respect and recognition of diggers determines the winning crew.