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3am paddlers stir. 5am sleeply drivers arrive Brooklyn. 5.45am kayaks slip onto dark Hawkesbury. 6am sunrise awakes. Orange light. Lions Head. Brown murky waters. Logs, debris, carnage from the week’s storms. Paddling south. Refuge Bay. Shroud of clouds. Kayaks beach. Waterfall, sandy strip, cliff face, a small plaque. Quick brew, Anzac biscuits, chat about equipment.

We form a circle.  We remember Z Special Unit, their paddle into battle. We shift to our own. A first story, a second and then a third. Round and round we go.  We work our way through wars – First World War, Second World War, Vietnam, Afghanistan. We work our way through places – Gallipoli, Western Front, Eastern Front, Middle East, Singapore, Auschwitz, Burma railway,  tail gunner, in the tunnels of Vietnam. And we work our way through our kin – great grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle, aunt, mother, friend. 

The stories weave a shared tapestry of a century of loss, sacrifice and suffering. We recognize from where our happiness, security and freedom is drawn.  We recognize the tapestry is woven with tight knots of blood from our own families.  There are tears, there is sadness, and there is gratefulness.

The River Canoe Club organized a paddle on Anzac Day to the original Z Special Unit camp in Refuge Bay, Hawkesbury River.  In honoring those brave soldiers who paddled to war, we remembered all who sacrificed and suffered for our freedoms.