Thursday, 27 November 2014

Canberra Part 2

Now for Part 2 of my trip to Canberra.  I got half way though Wednesday in my last post.  After meeting up with a recipient to deliver his quilt and then meeting with one of the RAAF photographers who has been deployed and has seen our work first hand "over there" (lucky thing!) I wandered over to the Memorial to watch the Last Post Ceremony. 

Usually at the end of each day, commencing at 4.55 pm,  the Last Post Ceremony is conducted. The ceremony begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by a Lament, played by a piper. This is very moving.  Visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes beside the Pool of Reflection.  A couple of school laid wreaths the day I was there.   The Roll of Honour in the Cloisters lists the names of more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations over more than a century. At each ceremony the story behind one of these names will be told. The Ode is then recited, and the ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post.
I was lucky and happened to be there on the right day to see Australia's Federation Guard at work.  On the first and third Wednesday of each month the Last Post Ceremony includes the presence of Australia's federation Guard .  At 4.00 pm a catafalque party mounted a vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier in the Hall of Memory. There was a change of guard at 4.30 pm, and the entire catafalque party then participated in the Last Post Ceremony.  

It was a very moving ceremony and I was pleased to see lots of people there to experience it, including plenty of school children.

That night I had another treat. Occasionally I develop more than a fleeting friendship with some of the people I deal with and these two fellows are a great case in point.  They were both in AMAB earlier this year. I had met the fellow in white once before, but this was the first time meeting the "big fella", as everyone seems to call him.  

It was so nice to chat over a lovely dinner, accompanied by the "big fella's" lovely wife.  

Thursday saw me meeting more new people and catching up with another friend though I don't have much in the way of photos to show you. 

First I visited the fellows at the 1st Joint Public Affairs Unit. Now I reckon these guys must have just about the best job, going anywhere and everywhere, taking photos, videos, recording interviews.  It seems to me that just about anywhere our defence members go there is a photographer at least, if not also a journalist, following them around.  I am told that more often than not their offices appear deserted as their people are all over the place for work. 

I did achieve a long term goal though - I manged to get a photographer in front of the camera!  A rare feat I think!   This particular PHOT is a recipient of one of my laundry bags and a quilt that Lynn made.  He has faithfully promised me a photo of himself with both..........hmmmm........ 

From a visit to 1stJPAU I headed out to the National Portrait Gallery for lunch with another recipient and his wife.  No, photos this time, because I was too busy chatting and enjoying myself but you can, like me, ponder over this piece of art in the compound outside the entrance to the Gallery if you want. 

Again, I am sorry, no photos of Thursday night's dinner but I can show you a pic from my last trip to Canberra when I had coffee with this fellow.  This time I was invited to have dinner with his gorgeous family at their home. I was delivering a quilt that will be handed to the recipient later in the year.   Can't say too much because I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Friday dawned bright, early and warm.  I headed out to Queanbeyan to attend a sewing day arranged by Jo-anne and some of her friends from a CWA (Country Women's Association) Group.  The 1st JPAU fellows had asked if there was a sewing day in Canberra that they could film.  Their goal was t make a video of an Aussie Hero Sewing Day as well as interviewing myself.  I have  no idea when you will be able to see either of those but I will let you know when I know.  I was too busy sewing but did manage to get one shot of a photographer in his natural habitat  :-D

These are the lovely ladies who took part on the day.  

I had gone along with a few laundry bags prepared so that we could surprise our guests with a laundry bag of their own.  

Of course I was not totally organised as I realised once the bags were finished that I had forgotten cord so had to bring them home with me to add the cord to. I will post them back down next week.

Of course you can't attend any sort of CWA get together without being fed wonderful food and of course our three fellows just had to be polite and sample some of the goodies on offer.   Of course there were scones (which I missed out on) but I overheard one of the fellows remarking on how delicious they were.

Thanks ladies for a great day!  I shall look forward to hopefully catching up with you again next time I am in Canberra if there is time.

Friday night was my last night in town and I just had time to pack up all my dear before I caught up with some friends for dinner.  It was up early on Saturday for the drive home, via a very quick stop for some fabric retain therapy at one of our big supporters, Berrima Patchwork.

I arrived home safe and sound on Saturday afternoon to find my house still standing and the two 18 year olds had not starved. In fact, they had managed quite well which just means I can go away more often perhaps.........after I get caught up from this trip. 

Things look like being very busy from now till the middle of December.  I am trying to get as many quilts in the mail in time for Christmas as possible. 

Till next time, keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  
Jan-Maree xx

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Happy mail 26th November

Hi everyone

What an eventful week it's been ... One I'll remember for a long time.

Looks like lots of you have been busy too judging by the lovly bunch of mail that has arrived this week.

Here are all the beauties.
These first two are from Laura Y, who tells me she has just found us. What a great first effort.

Lovely blocks from Deb F

Pretty ones from C Le Maitre

Lovely ones from Aniko P

Julie Ann has sent these ones

Great bunch from Dorothy C

I hope you'll agree with me that I did get some lovely mail to share. I think that some of the other ladies from today's post maybe new contributors as I don't recognise the names, if so welcome and thanks for joining in.

Til next time.

Happy Stitching.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

My week in Canberra Pt 1

Well I promised you a run down on what I got up to in Canberra last week so here is the potted version.  Basically I had a ball, which is just as well as I took a huge leap of faith and left my two 18 year old sons at home in charge of the house and, more importantly, the dogs, for the whole five nights.  My husband was supposed to be home from his work trip to the States in time to be at home with the boys but, as often happens, he did not make it and is still not home.  I am pleased to say that the boys stepped up though and managed beautifully.  The kitchen functioned well (if not exactly cleanly) in my absence and the house was still intact, dogs fed and watered when I got home.  

So, what did I get up to?

Well after having my trusty car towed to a mechanics with a wiring fault on Sunday I collected a loan car from my wonderful mechanic (turns out he is ex-service) on Monday morning and hit the road.  I had made no plans for Monday to allow myself to arrive and get organised in my own time but did end up having a quick dinner with a friend who had served with me as an Air Traffic Controller in the RAAF around 30 years ago!  We have seen each other a few times over the years so it was great to catch up again.

On Tuesday I headed off to the War Memorial.  I had planned to meet two quilters, Sue H and Steph N at the Cafe at the War Memorial, Poppy's for lunch.  A third quilter, Carole, surprised me by joining us which was lovely.    The three ladies had another surprise when a fellow in Army uniform brought his lunch over to join us!  He had arranged to meet me to receive his quilt which was made by Rita C after she started at one of the sewing days at my home.

Pictured here we have Sue H, our happy recipient with a camel, also from Rita, Carole J and Steph N.

On Tuesday night I was treated to dinner by this gorgeous fellow.  He noticed that I was going to be in Canberra for the week at the same time as he was in town to start his handover for his new job for next year.   For ease I will call him G.  G was the first person, deployed as a peacekeeper in South Sudan in 2012, to discover Aussie Heroes and to contact me and see if we could include them in our list of recipients.    He sent me lots of info and photos for some posts and I made his quilt and laundry bag myself.  We have stayed in touch and earlier this year he let me know that his lovely partner was deployed to Kabul, where she later became one of my contacts and many of you would have sent her laundry bags to hand out.   G also deployed this year to Kandahar and may have received a care package or two from me.  Both G and his lovely partner will be at our Aussie Hero Christmas Dinner.

Wednesday found me back at the War Memorial ready to see as much of it as I could before I was scheduled to meet a couple of fellows in the afternoon.

Outside the main entrance is this statue of Simpson and his donkey.  I won't tell you too much about him as Julie Ann has written me a post about him that I will share in coming weeks but I am sure that many of you are familiar with the story.

In 1954 sculptor Ray Ewers was asked to create a piece to commemorate the sacrifices of Australians in all wars.  His statue "Australian Serviceman" symbolizes determination, courange and a spirit of achievement and hope for the future. It was unveiled in 1959 in the Hall of Memory and removed in 1993 during the construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It was unveiled on this site on 19 August 1995 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

The statue is surrounded by a grove of silver birch trees which recognises that the men and women who gave so much in the service of their country came from every state and territory in the Commonwealth of Australia as do these trees. 

I spent most of my time in here.  I had expected to be moved by the display but had not counted on being as affected as I was.  Obviously I have come to know many of our serving members and Afganistan veterans over the last few years and even recognised some of them in the displays.  Let's just say that I was very glad that the room was quite dimly lit and not many people were in there whilst I was.  

Afghanistan and the Middle East are now part of Australia's military story.  Written on a plaque next to a map of Afghanistan is the following

"Australia's Mission is clear:  to combat international terrorism, to help stabilise Afghanistan and to support Australia's international alliances.  Yet a mission statement cannot capture the challenges, the successes and the comradeship of the Australian men and women who pursue it, nor the joys an the heartbreaks, of the loneliness and the dedication of those who wait at home.

Some of these experiences sent against the imagery of a modern war, are told in this exhibition.  Over time the display will change and evolve as more veterans share their stories."

All returned servicemen and women, and civilians who have worked in Afghanistan and the MEAO, are invited to contact the Australian War Memorial via www.awm/ to share their memories and ensure that this conflict, and the men and women who have served and died, are remembered by all Australians.

I spent quite a while in the Gallery listening to the personal accounts of some of the 27000 men and women, drawn from all three services, set against a back drop of amazing images played on huge screens on two sides of the room.  It was a very moving experience, especially as I knew some of them had received quilts and laundry bags.  I sat and watched and listened all the way through twice and was really pleased to see school children come in a sit quietly and watch and listen too.

This is one of the piece that I had particularly wanted to see as we have made Wounded Warrior Quilts and Fallen Warrior Quilts for a number of the men involved in this incident. In fact, this is when our Invtictus Warrior, Garry, sustained his injuries and he and Katrina had told me about visiting Canberra and seeing this Cowling when it was presented to the War Memorial.  

For those who do not know, as transcribed on a plaque next to the cowling, 

"In the early hours of 21 June 2010, four American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were transporting personnel, including Australian Special Forces soldiers from the 2nd Commando Regiment, into the Shah Wali Kot region of Kandahar province.   During the final approach to the landing zone, one of the Black Hawks crashed.  Two Australians, Privates Timothy Aplin and Scott Palmer, and an American, Staff Sergeant Brandon Silk, were killed.  Eight other Australians were severely injured with Private Benjamin Chuck pronounce dead shortly after arriving at the NATO Role 3 medical facility in Kandahar. 

This engine cowling was salvaged from the wrecked Black Hawk and used by the soldiers on board the other three helicopters as a makeshift stretcher for the worunded.  The casualties were evacuated to Kandahar and the stretcher was then displayed in the hospital's trauma bay. This was done as a memorial to those who lost their lives and as a tribute to the ingenuity and dedication of those who worked tirelessly to save the lives of their friends and comrades."

Another display that I could not miss was this storage bin, ripped from the side of a Bushmaster when a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated beneath it in early Novebmer 2012.

The Bushmaster, or Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) was designed and produced in Bendigo Victoria in 1998.  The manufacturers, Thales Australia, have gone on to modify and enhance the PMV to become one of the most successful military vehicles in operation today.  Many PMVs have been damaged or destroyed in Afghanistan by IEDs. Although there have been some Australian casualties, no lives have been lost - a testament to the vehicle's uniquely effective design.

Eventually it was time for me to head back to Poppy's the Cafe to meet another recipient who had left Afghanistan too early to receive a quilt.  We had arranged that I would bring it to Canberra with me and we met for a cuppa to hand it over.  The quilt was made by Lynn with the Rising Sun embroidered by Kerri B and then the quilt was quilted and bound by Robin.  The combination of the Rising Sun, the cricket and rugby themes met with heartfelt approval.  The photo was taken by another fellow I had been looking forward to meeting.  This fellow is one of the Air Force's hard working Photographers, a modern day version of war correspondent. I have come to understand just how hard this guys and girls work to photograph so much of what our serving members do whilst they are working, wherever that may be in the world.   He took this photo for me (with my "little" camera - it is actually my "big one" LOL) but I did not want to stretch the friendship to ask him to step in front of the lens!

 It looks like you might have to wait and I will finish telling you about my week in Canberra in another post as emails are piling up and I have been writing for long enough today.  

Till next time.................keep spreading the word and happy stitching!
Jan-Maree xx

Monday, 24 November 2014

Farewell HMAS Success....wishing you fair winds and following seas.....

Yesterday was another "first" for Aussie Heroes.  I was invited to take a group of Aussie Hero Friends to farewell HMAS Success and her crew of 235 sailors and officers as she departed for her six month deployment to the Middle East Region of Operation Manitou.  

The auxilary oiler was farewelled from her home-port of Garden Island, Sydney by Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN, Senator for New South Wales, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Well, herself a navy wife of many years, and representing the Minister for Defence.  Also in attendance was the Assistant Minister for Defence, Mr David Feeney MP, Commander Surface Force, Commodore Jonathan Mead, AM, RAN and family and friends.

 There were several speeches wishing the crew a safe and successful deployment and thanking the families and friends for their essential support.

Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN,

Senator for New South Wales, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Well, herself a navy wife of many years, and representing the Minister for Defence

Captain Justin Jones and others were interviewed by various media outlets.

As always the RSL, lead by the CEO Chris Perrin, did a fabulous job providing morning tea and refreshments for everyone present.  With the temperatures stretching towards 40+ the cold water was not only popular but also essential.

 We caught up with the Chaplain of Success

And also renewed acquaintance with the chaplain who had worked with us earlier last year when we looked after HMAS Toowoomba the first time around.

Big thanks goes to the Ship's Warrant Officer for greeting us and for sending a number of would be recipients our way so we could say hello and grab a photo.  From left to right those who accompanied me on the day were Dasha, Gail, Caroline and Evelyn.

This is one of your recipients Chocolyn Laughalot ladies!

Rosemarie T meet your recipient. 

This young lady was still on my request list till Gail met her yesterday so now she is in good hands - a rare opportunity for quilter and recipient to meet before the quilt is made.

Jill S, you are working on this young man's quilt

And Lynn and Michele, this is one of our Boatswains

This is now one of Evelyn's recipients.  

Stephanie N - this is your snow loving recipient.

Another recipient on the waiting list for her quilter.

Another recipient waiting to be claimed. 

Even with all the demands on his time Captain Jones took the time to come and meet with us and was kind enough to pose for a photo.  

We heard about this but missed seeing it happen.  This brave gentleman got down on one knee and proposed to his beautiful girlfriend just before deploying...

And we have it on good authority that she said yes!  Another one of our Boatswains Lynn and Michele

A very special fellow made an early visit especially for the children...

And finally it was time to climb aboard

The gangway is lifted away. 

As the band played on 

 and as the crew stood to attention on the various decks,

 HMAS Success started to pull away

and her deployment began.

Bet the crew were glad their cruise is in a more modern vessel than the days of old!

I figure you probably get sick of hearing from me all the time so asked the other ladies to send me their thoughts on the day for you instead.  

Another day, another proud moment to be part of Aussie Hero's.  
Today it was an honour to stand by the families and friends of the men and women preparing to deploy for six months at sea on board HMAS SUCCESS. It was emotional for me watching their emotions, and I can't imagine their pain at farewelling their loved ones for such a long time. It was an awesome sight to watch the ship back away from the dock with all the personnel saluting in their dress whites and the navy band playing the national anthem.
Once the salute was over, there was a flurry of frantic waving. Of course I did get into the spirit and waved to all and sundry. As the ship pulled away I caught the glinting of the captain's many medals and I enjoyed the proud moment in time that I was able to be part of.


On a hot sunny morning people of all ages gathered together at Garden Island to farewell the latest RAN ship to travel to the Middle East.
The naval personnel in their crisp white uniforms, with medals glinting brightly in the sunshine, went about their preparations with quiet efficiency until it was time to say an emotional goodbye to their loved ones on the wharf.
A few sailors we spoke to were excited to discuss the Aussie Hero Quilts they had requested, and were eagerly awaiting their arrival, perhaps in the first postal drop, perhaps later. Officers from other ships supported by AHQ also told us how well-received our quilts and laundry bags have been, and what a difference they make to crew members who are missing home.
There were speeches and good wishes from the dignitaries, then last minute hugs, kisses and tears. The crew of Success climbed the gangway and took their positions along the length of the ship. The gangway was removed, the Navy band played the National Anthem and Waltzing Matilda, then the mooring ropes were untied and Success moved slowly away from the wharf with the help of the waiting tugs. A sea of hands waved both on board and on shore.
A group of young women, whose partners had just left on the ship, introduced themselves to each other, swapped phone numbers and offered to support each other while their men were away.
Despite the emotional goodbyes, there was also an air of optimism. Even Santa was there, with gifts for the kids!
We wish HMAS Success fair winds and following seas, and a safe return home.


I have always had my own personnel reasons for quilting for AHQ, having three nephews in the services. Today's experience just cemented it. I knew no one departing today, but I certainly was overwhelmed with emotion as the ship was farewelled .Seeing families, partners and friends saying goodbye for such a long time, has made me more determined to keep on doing what we do. We make a difference, an important one no matter how small. I could not do what this whole group do, separated like they are.  I was made feel very proud to have met a few future recipients and how excited they are looking forward to their mail.  We make it more bearable.  Thankyou Jan-Maree for giving me the opportunity to be there today.


It was a day of many impressions.  Sadness.... families.... pride.... sailors everywhere in their sparkling whites.... the medals flashing in the sunlight and if you were in the wrong place, bright enough to blind you momentarily.... kids everywhere.... the gang plank being lifted by the crane (why did I think the gang plank lived on the ship?).... the oppressive heat.... contrast of the Success sailing out of the harbour and the James Craig passing Fort Denison.... the crew walking single file up the gang plank.... the sheer size of the ship, I felt like a midget standing on that wharf.... the beautiful view from the deck.... the tiny helicopter on board.... the brass band (with all the members in their pristine whites standing in the sun playing the Australian Anthem.... tears.... the crew lined up along the rails of the decks as the tug was pulling the vessel out... family groups taking that last photo.... a young girl standing quietly clinging to her boyfriend, the tears sliding silently down her cheek, knowing she won't see him for many months.

An emotional day for many people, and an honour to have been invited to be part of it. 


Till next time,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  

Jan-Maree xx