WAGGA’S new eternal flame was ignited on Tuesday by the city’s oldest World War II veteran.
Colin Bell, 99, had the honour of lighting the flame in front of more than 200 people during a ceremony in the Victory Memorial Gardens.
The crowd included schoolchildren.
As the flame burst into life, the big crowd applauded and drew to a close a joint Centenary of Anzac project of the Wagga RSL Club, Wagga City Council, the Wagga sub-branch of the RSL and the federal government.
Mayor Rod Kendall called the event historic.
RSL president John Keyes said it was probably one of his proudest moments.
The eternal flame sits in the middle of a six-metre-diameter reflection pond built just behind the shrine of remembrance.
“The flame will burn bearing witness to the heroism of those who gave their lives for the freedom of the world’s people during those years in conflict where our liberty was threatened,” RSL sub-branch president Kevin Kerr said in his keynote address.
“Those who fell in the heat of battle and possibly buried in distant lands, some with their names on the cross above, others only known to God in unmarked graves.
“This flame burns to represent the coming home of their spirit.”
The 35-minute ceremony included a prayer of remembrance by chaplain Andrew Robinson, unveiling of a memorial plaque, dedication of the memorial, sounding of The Last Post, recitation of the Ode of Remembrance by sub-branch vice president Harry Edmonds and the national anthem.
The RSL Rural Youth Commemorative Choir performed Lest We Forget.
Mr Bell’s son is the general manager of the RSL Club, Andrew Bell.
Mr Bell said his father and his entire family felt it was a great honour to be asked to light the eternal flame, which replaced a smaller pond that was ignited by World War I veteran, the late Ted Drake, in 1990.
Colin Bell moved to Wagga 17 years ago and is a resident of Remembrance Village.
He served in New Guinea as a driver in World War II and as a trainer in North Queensland.
In his speech, Mr Kerr said the reflection pond was a symbol of tranquility.
“It is shallow so that it remains undisturbed,” he said.
Surrounding the pond are the words sacrifice, liberty and vigilance.
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