SSAA Para hosts Anzac Day shoot

The SSAA Para Range, located deep within a valley in Adelaide’s north-eastern suburb of Greenwith, caters to virtually all regular shooting disciplines for rifles, pistols and shotguns and is the largest branch of the SSAA in South Australia. The shotgun range is set in a neat bushland area above the main rifle range and is fringed by trees. Over the past few years the members have put in a great deal of effort to improve the facility and the result is a credit to them all.

Each Anzac Day the shotgun section holds a Memorial Shoot followed by a barbecue. As a mark of respect, shooting is deferred until after midday. Before the match commences, shooters and visitors assemble for the playing of the Last Post, followed by the Ode of Remembrance and a minute’s silence to honour the fallen. The match itself is then held, ahead of the food being served.

The Anzac theme was reinforced at this year’s shoot by a display of military memorabilia, including some photographs, medals, uniforms and other assorted items ultimately representing all three of the armed services: Navy, Army and Air Force. Immediately in front of the spectator area, a Lithgow-manufactured SMLE No.1, MkIII* service rifle, with bayonet affixed, was stuck into the lawn with a steel helmet placed on the upturned buttplate, as was the custom during the war years to mark the sites of battlefield graves.

Although the event usually consists of 30 shots, because of a threatened thunderstorm this year’s shoot was restricted to 25 clays. There were 38 competitors and the match ran very smoothly, finally being won by popular SSAA Para member Neil Bell, who shot a perfect score. The shoot was kindly sponsored by Main North Nissan, whose now retired manager, LeRoy Uren, was among the competitors.

What particularly set this year’s shoot apart from those held previously was the great personal significance of the day to regular member Vince Selfe. Vince has been involved at SSAA Para for some years and is a hard worker for the Association. He and his son Robert and granddaughter Aliah were all present and took part in the shoot. What made this Anzac Day extremely special for him and his family was that it would have been the 100th birthday of Vince’s late father, Arthur, who was born on April 25, 1917.

Back in the spectators’ area a display table held the 2nd AIF tunic, medals and a variety of personal effects of the late Private SX7875 Arthur Selfe. The display table also held a framed photograph and the medals of Petty Officer Ernest Gray, RN, the late father of Dot Griggs whose husband, Mike, is Shotgun Section Captain for the midweek shoots. On the day of the shoot, Dot worked extremely hard alongside Claire Kimber (whose husband Jeff is the weekend shotgun captain) on the catering for the event.

We think of Anzac Day as a special occasion when we reflect upon the sacrifices suffered by all of our service personnel in wars since Australia became a nation and while this is probably true for everybody with family who served, this memorial shoot, on the centenary of Arthur Selfe’s birth, ensured it was highly emotive for all who were present.

While it is right that we honour those who made the supreme sacrifice, it is also appropriate to give thanks to all who served. We look at medals and uniforms in museums and perhaps we see images and grainy footage of troops going off to war, but when we see details of specific persons who served, we see individual stories, memories and events that can be linked to both our own families and our nation. With militaria displays there are always numerous further stories waiting to be discovered.

One such story resulted from inspecting the steel helmet that Vince purchased at a recent gun show in order to complete the theme for this year’s shoot. A name was noticed, inked faintly onto the underside of the helmet’s rim. It was ‘441921, Goodchild, B.F.’, and as his former helmet played a part in the memorial shoot, it seemed appropriate to include what we know about his service also.

We remember our veterans from all wars on Anzac Day and we should give thanks that the freedoms we have, including the capacity to hold great family sporting shooting events like this one, have been paid for in large measure by the sacrifices undertaken by these people. Lest we forget.

Private SX7875 Arthur Selfe

Arthur joined the 2nd AIF in July 1940 and was allocated to the famous 2/48th Battalion. This most highly decorated unit in the entire AIF fought firstly in North Africa at Tobruk, then later in the Pacific, being awarded four Victoria Crosses and numerous other significant decorations and battle honours. However, at some point, and for reasons unknown to the family, Arthur was transferred to another illustrious outfit within the 9th Division, the 2/11 Field Ambulance, where he trained as a medic. Vince reflected that his dad was “a small man, yet he twice won a state wrestling title”. His dedication to the care of others during the war was only discovered after his death, when the contents of the inevitable ‘tin trunk’ were examined. His notebooks revealed that he visited the families of a number of the diggers who they treated but who could not be saved.

Petty Officer Ernest Gray, RN

Ernest Gray, RN – the late father of Dot Griggs whose husband, Mike, is Shotgun Section Captain for the midweek shoots – served on HMS Hood in the North Atlantic and was lucky to be transferred to HMS Diomede shortly before the Hood was sunk in May 1941 during the battle of the Denmark Strait with the loss of all but three of its 1418 crew. Ernest and family emigrated to South Australia in 1951 where he worked with the Weapons Research Establishment.

441921 Leading Aircraftman Bernard Goodchild, RAAF

It took a few minutes on the Australian War Memorial to track down information about the late Bernard Frank Goodchild, of Katanning WA, who was born on July 18, 1924, and who served during WWII in the RAAF, between March 1944 and March 1946. Not much more is known of Bernard’s war service, but the records from Katanning Cemetery show that he passed away in November, 1992 at the age of 68.

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