Historic diversion creates a local tradition

21 April 2021

A game of cricket used as a diversionary tactic in Gallipoli more than 100 years ago is the inspiration for a very special ANZAC Day event.

Kenmore-Moggill RSL Sub Branch President Rick Maher says they’ve been playing the Shell Green Cricket Match every ANZAC Day for 10 years. Sadly, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID.

“We were looking at various ANZAC Day sporting events and saw that cricket wasn’t one being played,” Rick says.

“We figured we could acknowledge this important game.”

Cricketers standing under tree

The cricket game Rick is referring to was played in Gallipoli as a diversionary tactic as the ANZACs sought to withdraw from the area.

“The original Shell Green was a site in Gallipoli and was one of the only flat pieces of land. As a joke they called it the Village Green, but after it was bombed by the Turks it became known as Shell Green.

“The Australian Light Horse played a game of cricket on the site while troops started to withdraw as they figured if the Turks looked over the parapets and saw people playing cricket, they’d think we couldn’t possibly be organising to withdraw.”

Kenmore-Moggill RSL Sub Branch President Ken Maher

FROM LITTLE THINGS BIG THINGS GROW

Rick says the event has grown every year as the community has gotten behind it.

“I think it struck a chord with our local community. From maybe 100 people watching the game to now getting upwards of 5,000 people coming to watch is amazing.

“We now have the Lord Mayor of Brisbane as our patron, and his team plays against our official ADF team.”

Shaun Montgomery, who has served in the Army for 12 years, has been Captain of the Defence Shell Green team for the past three years.

“To be involved in the game on ANZAC Day is a pretty special moment and a good opportunity to integrate our community,” he says.

Cricket Captain Sean Montgomery

“The game is a good way to enjoy mateship with fellow servicemen and women, along with community members too. After the year we’ve had, just getting back to having the chance to spend time with each other is really important. I’m really looking forward to playing.”

All Defence players earn their own 'Baggy Shell Green' cap.

“It's pretty special because it's got the rising sun and it will be something that I look back on with fond memories,” Shaun says.

“Playing on the day at Brookfield Showgrounds does bring some connection to the guys that played in Gallipoli. The bigger connection is with the community here in Brookfield where the 2nd Light Horse did a horse muster.”

A DIVERSE COMMUNITY IS RICHER

Diversity is one of the defining attributes of Kenmore-Moggill RSL Sub Branch.

“We’re a Sub Branch that focuses on welfare and advocacy of veterans – all veterans – whether they’re a member of the Sub Branch or they’re a member of the community,” he says. 

“We have a range of people in our Sub Branch from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, including a large proportion of Sri Lankan service persons. Because of this, we’re seen as a home for Sri Lankan veterans, which is important. It recognises those 71 Sri Lankans that fought as part of the Australian contingent in World War I and at Gallipoli.

Shell Green cricketers

“We also have people from different conflicts and age ranges from mid 20s through to 106. So that’s a pretty special bunch of people.” 

Lucy Wong, who served in the Air Force for 12 years and was deployed to Rwanda, has been a member of the Sub Branch for three years.

“It’s a beautiful Sub Branch and it’s unique. You’re not just a number. Everyone knows everybody and they’ve gone out of their way to help me out,” she says.

“Last year was a challenging time for me and they’ve all helped me in some way. I’ve always known to give back but now I’m probably giving back a little more.”

Lucy is paying it forward, sitting on the Sub Branch’s ANZAC Day committee and says, “It’s really lovely to unite the community coming from all walks of life as well.”

Kenmore-Moggill RSL Sub Branch member Lucy Wong

A NEW RESPECT FOR ANZAC DAY

This year the Sub Branch will mark 25 April with a return to more traditional commemorations.

“COVID has restricted some of the things we would normally do and this year we said, ‘Let’s not stop doing what we need to do and look at ways of doing things differently’,” Rick says.

“So, this year, we will have a full service with a march at the Brookfield Showgrounds, which was also home to the horse muster during World War I, so it feels appropriate to have the march here and mix the two commemorative events into one location.”

Sandy Pollit, Brookfield Pony Club Chief Instructor and Parade Marshall for the ANZAC Day march, will lead the re-enactment of the local community donating their horses at the Showgrounds.

“A lot of the members of our Pony Club have relatives who have served and will be wearing medals in their honour on the day,” she says.

“And their love of horses means they can connect and imagine the emotion that would have been felt handing your horse over to be sent to war.

“Hundreds of thousands of horses were sent from Australia and only one returned home.”

Brookfield Pony Club Chief Instructor Sandy Pollit

While the start of the day is a time for sombre reflection, Sandy says the afternoon of cricket is the opportunity for the local community to come together.

“It’s a lovely day where all the different communities that exist within ours come together with a sole purpose.”

Rick reflects on the changes last year brought to ANZAC Day commemorations and says it served as a reminder of what the day really means.

“The key thing is we can still commemorate, we can still have the service while keeping the community safe and continue the tradition of the Shell Green Game at the Brookfield Showground,” he says.

Shaun agrees, saying, “ANZAC Day to me is a day of reflection. Last year’s ANZAC Day was probably one of the more powerful I’ve had. To stand out on your front porch and look down the street and see your fellow Australians doing the same thing was a really poignant moment.”