Anzac Day 2015



A Vietnam veteran himself, our forum moderator John gives us a recap of the recent Anzac storyline, and some background about those Australians who served in Vietnam...

In April 2015 Home and Away recognised the Centenary of the landings at Gallipoli in April 1915 during the First World War. This defeat which cost many lives was the first time that Australia had contributed soldiers to a conflict since Australia became a nation at Federation in 1901.

It is remembered for the sacrifice, courage and spirit of mateship that was shown by our soldiers at that time. The Australian Imperial Force joined with soldiers from New Zealand to form the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps known as ANZAC.

Since then all soldiers who serve our country are encouraged to reflect the "Spirit of the Anzacs".

Home and Away decided to commemorate this event with a storyline which involved Alf, a Vietnam Veteran, and John Palmer who had served in the Royal Australian Navy. The story explored the involvement and understanding by young people of the historical events and their effect on our nation to this day. It also explored the personal cost Alf and a Second World War veteran suffered as a result of their service.

Alf was persuaded to accompany the school students on an excursion to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Alf admitted that he had never visited, despite his grandfather being named on the roll of honour after being killed in action in World War 1.

On the trip, the students initially failed to see how the events commemorated there affected them. This caused Alf a lot of distress. Marilyn challenged the students to quietly and thoughtfully explore the memorial halls.

A series of cameos showed the students individually connecting with the displays and coming to realise their significance.

After placing a poppy next to his grandfather's name on the roll of honour, Alf eventually set foot into the Vietnam exhibition. Alf found the displays very confronting and began to experience disturbing flashbacks from his time in service.

As a conclusion to the excursion the school had arranged for the students to spend a night in a reconstructed World War 1 trench where they were subjected to sound effects and simulated explosions to give them some idea of conditions in the trenches.

Alf found this experience even more unsettling as it brought back more dramatic flashbacks of his war service. He wandered from the trenches and eventually collapsed.

The students noticed he was missing and Jett eventually discovered him where he had fallen. Alf's condition was considered serious enough for him to be evacuated to hospital by air ambulance.

While being treated in hospital Alf meets a World War 2 veteran, Tom Knight, who tells Alf that his war service led to him becoming estranged from his son. He regrets this deeply and is very impressed when Jett comes to visit Alf in hospital. He urges Alf to value Jett's presence in his life, and for Jett to always understand the importance of families.

A distressed Tom reveals to Alf that he still feels responsible for the loss of his crew, who were all killed after the plane he was piloting was shot by a night fighter and forced to crash land in a field. Tom dies shortly afterwards, and Alf tells the nurse that he will see that Tom's son received his father's war medals.

Showing the effect the excursion and Alf's collapse have had on them the young people, led by Jett and Evie, determine to hold a Dawn Service on the beach on Anzac Day to recognise Alf and all the others who have served. Josh puts together a memorial sculpture.

Roo and Nate "smuggle" Alf out of hospital so he can attend the Dawn Service, where Jett and Evie both take leading parts, and he presents Jett with Tom's war medals to hold during the service. The beach setting is particularly dramatic and appropriate. The River Boys also pay their traditional tribute in the surf.

At the end of the service Alf scatters his grandfather's ashes in the surf.




The whole experience has stirred up a lot of memories for Alf who has a lot of unresolved issues from his time in Vietnam. He, like many other veterans, suffered badly from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which led to violent mood swings and bouts of depression.

Vietnam was an unpopular war with many in the Australian community, who saw the war as unjust and were strongly opposed to our nation's involvement, so many veterans like Alf never sought help to deal with those issues. This led to many relationship breakdowns and suicides.

It wasn't until 1987, 15 years after the end of Australia's involvement that Welcome Home Parades were held in Sydney and Melbourne as a belated recognition of the service veterans had given on behalf of the nation. I wonder if Alf marched with his unit.

Nowadays Anzac Day is recognised with a huge involvement of young people alongside older members of the community. Many young people "march their ancestors medals" worn on the right side of the chest rather than the left as a mark of respect and remembrance to those who served.

The fortunate ones, like Alf, sought and found help through counselling or Veterans organisations. Some, sadly, remain lost and lonely figures on the fringes of society to this day.

At the time of the Welcome Home Parades an Australian Band called Redgum had a hit song called I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green) which became an anthem for the Vietnam Veteran Community.


The storyline was first mentioned as a possibility by Ray Meagher in a webchat interview for UK broadcaster Channel 5 in May 2014. During the interview he stated that "There is some talk of a storyline which helps celebrate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. There's a possibility of a storyline for me there, which will go through my character's history and my family's involvement in the wars. But whether that gets through the powers that be, who knows?"

Originally the show were looking to film some of the storyline on the Western Front in France, but as Ray explained in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, "There weren't enough bikkies in the tin". Instead the show settled on the war memorial in Canberra, with a makeshift trench in Sydney's southwest utilising part of a set from the 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Ray, 70, said of the storyline "It's the best storyline I've had in a while and I felt humbled to be tackling such important material. I only hope we do it justice ... as a way to honour all our service men and women."

On sharing scenes with acting veteran Vincent Ball, Ray said in a separate interview "It was wonderful being the youngest bloke in the room for a change. But I tell you what ... Vincent may be 91, but he didn't miss a beat. It was a real honour to be in every scene with him."

The official site also posted the following video at the time of the storyline airing in Australia, featuring an interview with Ray Meagher and Will McDonald.


Alf's service has been touched upon in previous years. We've previously learnt that Alf was wounded during battle and his life was saved by his good friend Geoff Marshall, who was also from Summer Bay. In later years they sailed to Fiji together, but Geoff had never come to terms with what he experienced in Vietnam.

In 1997, after missing a call from him earlier in the day, Alf learned that Geoff had committed suicide, leaving Alf wracked with guilt for not being there for him. After going through his old photo album, Alf experienced flashbacks to their time in the war and broke down. The episode won the 1998 Australian Film Institute award for Best Episode in a Television Serial Drama.

Away from the conflict, we also learnt that Alf had a fling with an American lady named Mary Jackson, who unbeknown to Alf at the time, later bore his child Quinn (played by Danielle Spencer in 1995).



For more information on Anzac Day, see the following links:
Australian War Memorial - Anzac Day
Anzac Centenary Website