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Archive for May 1st, 2009

What’s it mean to be Australian? A tribute to Ernie

Posted by Vietnam Swans on May 1, 2009

The Thailand Tigers and Vietnam Swans hand out Club shirts to ex POWs Bill, Snow and Neil. And a 4th shirt for their mate, Ernie

After the ANZAC  match last Saturday, a man named Grant Harris approached Phil Johns from the Swans. He handed Phil a one pager that his friend Christopher Greenwood had written about Ernie. Ernie was an ex POW who was due to make his 9th consecutive trip to the 2009 ANZAC Day Dawn Service with students from the local Esperance High School in Western Australia.

However, two days before he was due to leave for Thailand, Ernie suffered a heart attack. Last Wednesday, Ernie Redman OAM died. With kind permission from Christopher Green, “This (ex POW’s) Life” is reproduced below:

Someone asked me the other day what I thought it meant to be an Australian. At last, me thinks, an easy puzzler to answer. And no, I’m not visualizing a speeding car with two flags protruding from the rear passenger windows. For me it is the pride I get out of being asked to assist a bloke by the name of Ernie Redman. In the town I live in, Ernie is a living legend. Every year at about this time Ernie comes to my shop and asks me to check over his video camcorder. He needs to know that the battery is charged and the camera is in good working order. It’s not as though Ernie knows how to use it. He doesn’t even know how to turn it on. The point is he knows someone who does.

Some of Ernie's high school students from last year's Quiet Lion Tour

A local high school student will take on the role of camera person for Ernie when they accompany him with other students on his annual vigil. Ernie is a veteran P.O.W. Every year for the last eight, Ernie visits The Burma – Thai Railway which he helped to build during World War II. The tour is named The Quiet Lion Tour, after Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop as a tribute to his brave, compassionate work alongside the likes of Ernie during those torturous years.

The camera will capture Ernie walking the line with his new batch of students, talking about the hardships his mates battled. He rarely talks about how much he suffered. He and his mates weren’t much older than the high school students who accompany him, when they were thrust into this “hell hole”. He talks about how torturous some Japanese soldiers were on their fragile spirit. He never blames them for anything. Ernie understood that the Japanese were doing what they thought was right for their country. They were affected by war and they were proud people. They did as they were told.

Ernie last year - and his three mates this year on ANZAC Day

The camera continues to roll as Ernie takes his new friends to Hellfire Pass for the A.N.Z.A.C. Dawn Service. Here Ernie sheds a tear for his mates; mates who never made it, the same mates who helped him to survive. He’ll always be indebted to his mates. Ernie is also deeply thrilled that his new young friends can gain a greater sense of what A.N.Z.A.C. really means. Ernie’s small camcorder continues to capture it all.

The thing is, Ernie, who turns ninety one this year, has had to endure small battles himself to make sure students get the opportunity to take the tour each year. He sits in the Post Office Square selling raffle tickets for two months. He talks to local councillors and parliamentarians for six months; then sells more tickets for Easter buns and quiz night tables. Every year his efforts help to reduce the fare for all the students. He gets a major kick out of working alongside his new mates to make it happen.

Farewell Ernie. And don't worry about the camera; someone else picked it up.

Every student or ex-student I spoke to who has accompanied Ernie to The River Kwai and Hellfire Pass talks about how lucky they were to have experienced it with such a good bloke. They all refer to Ernie as “the best”.

Ernie is due to pick up his camera in the next couple of days. He’s going to ask the same question. How much do I owe you? It is at that moment that I’ll think about how good it is to be an Australian and how responsible Ernie and his mates are for that feeling. Once again I’m going to give him the same answer, “Nothing mate”.

  • See from the Esperance Express about the students’ responses to last year’s Quiet Lion Tour.
  • See for a profile on Ernie Redman, Bill Haskell, Milton “Snow” Fairclough and Neil MacPherson.

For photos of this year’s  ANZAC Day in Thailand, see the .

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Ernie Redman OAM, ex POW, R.I.P.

Posted by Vietnam Swans on May 1, 2009

Ernie Redman, OAM, suffered a heart attack two days prior to leaving Australia for the 2009 ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass

Yesterday, the National President of the Vietnam Swans, Phil Johns, was informed that ex POW, Ernie Redman had died on Wednesday 29 April. Below is the email he sent to those who went on last weekend’s trip to Thailand.

Fellow Swans ANZAC-ers

On ANZAC Day, a guy came up to me (Grant Harris) and gave me a one page story about Ernie Redman OAM. Ernie was the 4th ex POW – the one who wasn’t present at the ground where our footy match was held last Saturday.

Two days prior to the 90 year old setting off for ANZAC Day in Thailand, he suffered a heart attack. Yesterday (Wednesday 29 April) afternoon, Ernie died.

Last Saturday, we attended the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass – a place that “Weary” Dunlop had predicted would assume “a significance equal to that of Gallipoli”. En route, as a tribute to his father and those who were there with him on the line, Patrick Stringer shared his knowledge, insights and reflections. We, the Vietnam Swans, then played a footy match, on ANZAC Day, in front of three of the four ex POWs.

Phew!

As time continues to pass, I suspect that the significance of ANZAC Day 2009 will become even greater for each of us.

Footnote: Yesterday, The Age reported that Alex Lees, the . Alex Lees was a prisoner at the infamous German Stalag Luft III camp in March 1944 when scores of Allied servicemen escaped through tunnels they had dug by hand.

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