By Dean Mighell
This year marks a significant centenary in Australia’s history, that being the start of the First World War in 1914. One hundred years ago this year, Australia was changed forever and began preparing for war. We even began producing our own military rifles at Lithgow in New South Wales. United States company Pratt & Whitney, which had never made firearms before, won a contract over much-fancied British manufacturers to establish manufacturing of the SMLE rifle. Some 13,800 rifles were made there between July 1913 and July 1914 and this ramped up to producing 100,000 SMLEs at Lithgow from 1913 to 1918. If you have one of these rifles, cherish it and preserve it for future generations because it not only tells a story of Australia’s military commitment, but also a proud story where we as a country made things and made them well.
Over the next few years coinciding with the Anzac Centenary, I will be doing my best to ensure that the Australian Shooter includes an article that reminds members of those gallant Australians who fought for our country, as it’s important that the SSAA and its membership remember their sacrifice. I absolutely believe that the freedoms we enjoy as Australians today are due to their sacrifice. Importantly, let’s not just say ‘Lest we forget’; let’s make sure we remember and do something about it.
Another role I have is as a founder of the Australian Remembrance Foundation (ARF). We take on projects related to remembrance of the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in WWI. One of our objectives is to build a Remembrance Centre on the Western Front in France and ultimately, Belgium. With 48,000 dead and hundreds of thousands wounded, these men need to be remembered, and Australia currently does not have a place of our own dedicated to them.
The ARF also helps with research for the missing and a personal project I have is to find a missing Digger in Belgium. His name is Edward ‘Tiny’ Falloon, regimental number 27. The Red Cross reports and a mountain of research has led me to believe he can he found, identified and given back his identity and dignity. ‘Tiny’ is but one lost Australian I hope to find and is symbolic of the thousands of Australians who died in that war with no known grave. While this is not a SSAA project, it is one I hope our members will relate to. Check out ‘ARF Australian Remembrance Foundation’ on Facebook.
Becoming a force
I would like to thank all the members who have emailed me sharing their thoughts on the SSAA and the role it can and should play in defending shooters’ rights and protecting our way of life. I will answer every email personally and take on board all of the criticisms and feedback. It’s worth members understanding that the SSAA National body consists of the SSAA state and territory branches and we cannot interfere with them as they are individual entities in their own rights. Having said that, there is a consistent theme that members want us to communicate and campaign strongly. I hope we are on the way to doing that with our Communications Committee, which has a role to do exactly that.
The SSAA has grown in size last year yet again, however it is clear that our members want us to grow in strength, work with likeminded associations and be a loud, proud and independent voice for shooters’ rights and I am totally committed to doing that if I can. There is much room for improvement in the SSAA. We understand that fully and in my time as President, I will do all I can to work with the state and territory branches to achieve that if that’s the way it chooses to advance. After all, the old SSAA motto is ever true: Our aim is shooters’ rights.