GREG Roese lost his mate during what the Australian War Memorial records as the very place that ''Australian soldiers fought their largest, most sustained and arguably most hazardous battles of the Vietnam War''.
It was 1968 during the Battle of Coral–Balmoral – “the most sustained ground attack on an Australian field gun position since the Pacific war'’ – when Mr Roese, aged in his early 20s serving in the Australian infantry in Vietnam, watched his comrade die.
Mr Roese returned to Australia after 10 months’ service in Vietnam.
He was one of the lucky ones.
“It was the largest engagement of Australian forces in Vietnam,” Mr Roese said of the Battle of Coral-Balmoral.
“There was quite fierce hand-to-hand fighting.
“As a consequence of that, I lost a mate, who was married at the time.
“Some years later, I found out that Legacy had actually assisted his wife and that’s when I got interested.”
It was then, 50 years ago, that Mr Roese became involved in the volunteer-run organisation that provides services to families of veterans who have died or given their health.
“I was in Leeton in the Riverina at the time,” Mr Roese said.
“I was encouraged by the Vets down there to get involved in Legacy, which I did and I’ve been involved ever since.”
Mr Roese came to Tamworth in 1995 for a job transfer while working with the department of agriculture.
He also transferred as a Legatee, and has remained actively involved in the organisation, now heading up the Tamworth branch as president.
Legacy is a uniquely Australian organisation, established in 1923 and born out of a promise of “mateship”, where a Digger promised his mate that he would look after his wife and children back home.
This year marks the 95th year of the establishment of Legacy in Australia, and the 70th anniversary of Tamworth Legacy.
“For the older generation, they certainly know Legacy,” Mr Roese said.
“For the younger generation, I guess we can go under the radar.
“We still increasingly have those people who need our help.
“Some years ago Legacy changed its charter because prior to that Legacy assisted the widow, but it changed so it could actually assist the veteran and their family.
“As one widow said, ‘I don’t want help when my husband is dead, I need help now’.”
Legacy’s services range from advice and counselling to practical assistance, including pension applications, financial assistance to those in need and educational, legal and general welfare advice.
It has helped some 65,000 widow(er)s, and 1800 children and dependants with a disability.
“The good thing is, irrespective of where a war family moves to in Australia, there’ll be a local Legacy club there to provide that little extra support they need.”
Sheila Redmayne knows that better than anyone.
The Tamworth resident was living just north of Coffs Harbour when her husband, a former member of the Australian air force, who served from 1940 to 1947, died at the age 61.
If it weren’t for Legacy, she says her life would have been “dramatically different”.
“My first meeting with Legacy was when my husband was ill,” Mrs Redmayne said.
“At the time we were living near Coffs Harbour in a beach-side place called Mullaway.
“My husband took ill when he retired in Tamworth in 1983.
“They were very supportive to me.
“He subsequently died several months later.”
You’re in a state of grief, not thinking rationally, but that’s when they come in.Sheila Redmayne
Mrs Redmayne received a war widow’s pension, and it is the support of Legacy for which she is so grateful.
“They were just so supportive, advising, telling me what I needed to do,” she said.
“You’re in a state of grief, not thinking rationally, but that’s when they come in.”
Mrs Redmayne remains actively involved in Tamworth Legacy and The War Widows' Guild Of Australia.
“They’re very giving, very loyal society members,” Mrs Redmayne said.
“Nothing is ever a problem.
“Originally Legacy members were ex-servicemen, who have since passed on, but it’s lovely to see their family members involved.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of them.
“They are just wonderful people who have done so much, and continue to do so today.”
Tamworth Legacy hopes to garner the support of the younger generations to continue the work of its founders.
In the development of Legacy up to 1945, there had been no established Legacy organisations north and west of Newcastle.
After a string of meetings and mounting community support, Tamworth Legacy Group became an autonomous club in 1948.
The branch experienced steady and consistent growth with enrolments increasing to 125 widows and 100 children around 1954.
It has since helped “hundreds and hundreds” of local families, now comprising 72 Legatees and 470 widows.
Tamworth Legacy is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a gala dinner and dance on April 7 at Tamworth War Memorial Town Hall.
Lambis Englezos AM, one of the country’s foremost experts on Australia’s Great War experience, will attend the event as guest speaker. The public is invited to attend.
To find out more about the branch’s anniversary events or the work of Legacy, visit www.legacy.com.au/tamworth/TamworthLegacy