SELFLESS sacrifice lies at the heart of the Anzac legacy.
And the story of little-known Wagga war hero Bruce Meiklejohn speaks to that extraordinary sacrifice.
His story is not unique but it is nonetheless remarkable.
On June 22, 1943, the RAAF pilot was at the controls of a WWII bomber that had been mortally wounded by German fighter planes.
History abounds with stories of boys becoming men in the theatre of war.
This is one of them.
As the aircraft started its fatal, final downward descent towards the tiny Belgian village of Achel, Mr Meiklejohn made a snap decision to stay with his plane.
He ordered the crew to bale out.
Alone and with his destiny sealed, he focused on saving the village from annihilation.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the plane’s nose suddenly jerk upwards and moments later the bomber crashed on the outskirts of the village.
Achel was saved but Mr Meiklejohn perished, aged 21.
In a touching postscript, the residents of the village vowed to honour his memory annually, a tradition they continue to this day.
And yet 15,000km away in Wagga, his story is not widely known.
A search of The Daily Advertiser’s archives over the past two decades reveals just one article on Mr Meiklejohn, a small picture story in 2013.
On Friday, local singer-songwriter Scott Cochrane ensured the heroics of Mr Meiklejohn were immortalised in song forever.
At a standing-room-only ceremony at Wagga RAAF, Mr Cochrane officially launched The Captain and 366, a musical tribute to the boy from Downside.
The air was thick with emotion as the song was played.
If listening to the tune, or even reading the lyrics, does not give you goosebumps, you’re not human.
Mr Cochrane deserves our eternal gratitude and respect for his efforts in documenting such an important part of our history.
Anzac Day conveys such rich and concrete human emotions and, in many ways, it is our true national day.
On Tuesday, while paying your respects to those who fought for our freedom, take some time to listen to The Captain and 366 and reflect on the human cost of that fight.