Putting A Present Lens On Remembrance Day With Two Modern Veterans Telling Their Stories
We have two Australian Army veterans as our special guests this episode.
The first is the Vice President of the RSL in South Australia, and President of the Magill RSL Sub Branch, Retired Major Meredith Burgess. Apart from being a mechanic for the Australian Defence Force, she became and Officer and spent much of her career in the role of Quartermaster.
Our second guest is Chairperson and Editor of The Top Ender, Tri-Services Magazine, and founder of Barossa Fun Factory, Deb Herring. Deb’s focus on community extends throughout her work at the magazine for veterans as well as being a key part of her business.
If you read this before November 18, 2023, Steve would like you to join him at the Magill RSL Sub Branch for an 80s Trivia Night. He’ll be the Quizmaster on behalf of the organisers the Magill Sunrise Rotary Club. Details and tickets here.
The SA Drink Of The Week – no featured drink this week.
And in the Musical Pilgrimage, it’s the first birthday of Dino Jag’s song, Shake A Leg Like Elvis, so we’ll itch that scratch and give it another spin!
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Running Sheet: Remembering Beyond Remembrance Day
00:00:00 SA Drink Of The Week
No SA Drink Of The Week this week.
00:03:29 Meredith Burgess
That was a little snippet of the Concert Band and Chorus of the RAAF, singing Quartermaster’s Store. I grew up with my dad playing “hits of the war years” over and over again and I always wondered what a quartermaster was. Well, fast forward to today and I am sitting next to a woman who has spent some of her army career as a quartermaster. I refer to Retired Major, Meredith Burgess.
Meredith, we’re sitting in the Magill RSL Sub Branch, where you are President (she is also Vice President of the RSL in South Australia) and on November 18, 2023, I’ll be quiz master for an 80s trivia quiz being run by the Magill Sunrise Rotary Club to raise money for your programs here. Before we talk about them, and before you help me wrap my head around the role of a quartermaster, there is some South Australian business to attend to.
You grew up in the wheat and sheep area of Lameroo and finished your schooling in Murray Bridge. What do you remember most about life in that part of Australia at that time?
I worked for 7 years at 5MU and would often drive out to regional towns to do interviews in my HG70 panel van without any knowledge of mechanics. Was the tyranny of distance part of the reason that attracted you to getting under the hood? In other words, was it a simple survival mechanism?
This drive you had for motor mechanics and metal fabrication led you to TAFE and then you joined the Army Apprentice School at Albury-Wodonga in the second class of female trainees where only 4 out of 13 graduated. My daughters have demanded that I ask you to share what it was like being outnumbered on grounds of gender and what enabled you to get through and then later get encouraged to undertake training as an officer at Duntroon?
You’ve had various roles as quartermaster, what is it, in layperson’s terms because to the best of my knowledge it was the person responsible for making sure supplies got to where they’re needed?
To get a sense of why RSL clubs and services are so important, I think us lay people need to remember the extremes service people are exposed to. Sometimes this is combat but at other times it is the aftermath of combat and atrocities and just squalid conditions. Would you mind just painting a picture or two of the conditions you and your fellow service people experienced when you were among the first to arrive in East Timor in 1999?
You’re on the record discussing the difficulties you faced in adjusting back to civilian life but it seems that your involvement in this RSL club has not only been good for you but also good for the club. Can you take us through the club’s resurrection over the past 10 years, and then we’ll look at some of the services.
What keeps you going? What feedback do you get?
Can we be part of it – non service people?
Is there any protocol to follow? I spoke at a Mess In night for the RAAF at Edinburgh a few years ago and I had 17 pages of protocol to read, including the Passing Of The Port.
00:51:20 Deb Herring
A theme of the conversation with our previous guest, Meredith Burgess, will also run through our next chat. That theme is the human drive to build community even amid change. This is given great focus in the lives of Australian Defence Force personnel because they are posted to different locations with great frequency, having to pull up roots and replant them over and over again. Deborah Herring has lived that life when she was in the army – twice. She’s now living and working in the Barossa working as Chair and Editor of The Top Ender Tri-Services Magazine (which is a magazine for service personnel and veterans) while also running an events and tourism business, Barossa Fun Factory.
Deb, you’re settled in the Barossa now. I assume that’s better than being moved about all the time, but what’s it really like because us humans learn to adapt. Is it a challenge to learn to be in one place?
How much did you move about in the Army?
What do “relationships” look like in the defence force? Is it hard to build friendships or do you get better at bonding faster?
What happens if the team on a particular deployment is not ideal?
Meredith Burgess mentioned she felt quite lost when she left the Army. What was your experience?
Your work with The Top Ender seems to be driven by a fire in your belly to give veterans a sense of connection. What fuels that fire?
What sort of stories do you cover?
At first look, nothing seems further from being in the defence force than running a company called Barossa Fun Factory. But there is some shared DNA, isn’t there, because you talk a lot about your pop up events and corporate workshops as not only creating a sense of fun but deeply building connections between participants?
What were the first things you ran?
Are there regular events for kids?
Halloween is just ahead of us at the time of recording. Special calendar events get you springing into action, don’t they?
You have run some successful corporate events, too, that have a bit if “kid’s fun” to them. Talk us through an example and how it’s linked to greater team engagement?
And with Xmas upon us, I want to finish on something I think is excellent. You stage events called Mingle Bells, which transform the typically awkward or sometimes drunken company christmas event into a time of real connection.
Finally, Remebrance Day is upon us. Is that a significant day for you, or is Anzac Day stronger. What do these days mean to you?
01:26:43 Musical Pilgrimage
Our featured song this episode is Shake A Leg Like Elvis by Dino Jag.
Given that Elvis did his time in the Army, it’s only fair we feature a tribute to him by our own Dino Jag, on this pre-Remembrance Day episode.
Here’s this week’s preview video
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SFX: Throughout the podcast we use free SFX from freesfx.co.uk for the harp, the visa stamp, the silent movie music, the stylus, the radio signal SFX, the wine pouring and cork pulling SFX, and the swooshes around Siri.
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