Despite limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Anzac Day spirit will still shine bright for Clare Valley wine producer and Royal Australian Air Force Officer, Wing Commander Bill Talbot.

With the cancellation of events around the country, Anzac Day 2020 is set to be marked differently than in previous years.

“Unfortunately COVID-19 restrictions mean we won’t be able to come together in local community Anzac Day services this year,” Wing Commander Talbot said.

“We’ll have to find other ways to show our respect and gratitude to the multitudes of Australian military men and women who have served our country so faithfully, and who sacrificed so much in the process. 

“For me, I’ll tune in to the televised Anzac Day commemorative service from Canberra and spend some time thinking about the service of all Australians in military conflict.”

Affectionately known as a “RAAF brat”, he spent his life on the move during school years - first at Point Cook, then Canberra, Butterworth, Sydney, East Sale and finally Glenbrook.

The Air Warfare Centre Business Planner’s diverse and interesting career spans 45 years, influenced and inspired by his late father, who also served in the RAAF, and played a large part in his decision to join in 1975.

“The idea of being given a lot of responsibility at a very young age, and the opportunity to travel the world as an aircraft navigator was a big attraction,” he said.

“It’s been a long career and I’ve met many very impressive, good people along the way.

“There are many memorable moments but possibly the most poignant Anzac Day-related moment came when I was flying the search-and-rescue DC3 Dakota from Darwin in the late 70s.

“We flew a group of former Gull Force soldiers to Ambon, Indonesia, for an official Anzac Day ceremony. They had been held there as POWs by the Japanese from 1942-45.

I found it incredibly inspirational to spend time with those great old men.

“We were with them for several days and heard first-hand their tales of brutal treatment and suffering at the hands of their captors.

“Despite all the hardship, they saw themselves not as victims but as gallant survivors – and that is exactly what they were.

“I found it incredibly inspirational to spend time with those great old men.” 

Several years later in 1991, while he was serving as an attaché in Jakarta, he returned to Ambon for Anzac Day again and met many of those same Gull Force men.

“By that time there were fewer of them and many of them were frail, but their spirit had not diminished and they were determined to undertake the long and difficult journey to Ambon to show respect to their fallen mates,” Wing Commander Talbot said.

“Anzac Day for me is especially about Gallipoli, where the Anzac spirit is said to have been born – a spirit of mateship and courage that has been embraced by so many Australians as part of our national character.

“And I’ll think fondly again about the old Gull Force diggers from Ambon – they’re almost certainly all gone now, but I won’t forget them.”

Australian Defence Force members currently deployed on operations or working overseas, and who are also supporting the COVID-19 response, are upholding the Anzac spirit while serving Australia's national interests.

Australians are encouraged to mark Anzac Day by watching the commemorative service televised from the Australian War Memorial. Australians can also participate by sharing stories, photos and videos via social media channels.