Lane Cove ANZAC DAY 2019 History of the Communion Table

Today the ANZAC Day Service was held in the Lane Cove Plaza.  Below is the Lane Cove ANZAC Day 2019 address about a communion table and the brave men who are featured on the communion table.

Armed Service for one’s country is perhaps the ultimate sacrifice of self for the good of others in the community. In many ways the story of this table is a story of the interface between the Church and the community.

In 1936 Greenwich Soccer Club was formed by Rev Harry Jeffries, the then Minister of Greenwich Congregational church. The first President was Bob Campbell senior, succeeded by his son, also Bob. Bob Junior is quoted in the history of the Soccer Club as saying “there were enough young kids – everyone went to Sunday School in those days”.

The Club became known as the Greenwich Congs because its meetings were held in the Church Hall. Other teams in the competition included the Willoughby Meths.

The Club prospered but during the period of the Second World War there was only a single team because a number of players were serving their country. The Club’s history specifically highlighted that one of these was Ron McIlroy who we again acknowledge today.

After the war the Church recognised the sacrifice of some of its young men and the table, used for Holy Communion, was dedicated in their honour.

Sometime later, following the formation of the Uniting Church (Congregational, Methodists and Presbyterian churches) the decision was made to close the Greenwich Congregational Church.

The niece of Neil Tipping (also recognised on the plaque) has recounted that she can recall the decision taken to gift the table to the Lynvale Aged Care Centre – another example of Church and Community working together as Lynvale was then and continues to be operated by the community service division of the Uniting Church.

The Chaplain at Lynvale has clear memories of use of the table in the provision of services for the residents. However with renovations and other changes, the table ceased to be used and was placed in storage.

More recently there was a general clean-up of apparently surplus furniture and the table was moved to St Columba where there was a suggestion that it might be repurposed by members of the Men’s Shed (another Church and community interface – the St Columba Shed was established by the church and is recognised as one of the very first  Men’s Sheds in Australia).

Fortuitously one of the shedders saw the beautiful carvings and the plaque on the table and spoke to members of the Lane Cove Uniting Church. We are indebted to his intervention.
After research by Elder Heather Andrews, the link between the table’s history and St Andrew’s Uniting church at Longueville became apparent.

St Andrew’s has been the stewards of the funds generated by the sale of the Greenwich Congregational church which has allowed it to contribute to a range of new mission activities. So the table made the short journey to Longueville – almost a complete home coming circle for which we are all grateful.

The Brave Men Featured on the Communion Table

565626 Sergeant Pilot Kenneth Bell

Ken was born in England in 1914. Ten years later the family migrated to Australia and by 1933 were living in Greenwich Rd.

At the age of 16, he sailed for England in 1931 and commenced his apprenticeship at RAF Halton (School of Technical Training) as an Aircraft Engine and Airframe fitter.
By April 1940 he held the rank of Sergeant Pilot and was posted to 269 Squadron who had recently migrated to Lockheed Hudson patrol bombers. The squadron was based at RAF Wick which was located in the north-eastern extremity of the mainland of Scotland.
As well as on this table Ken is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey England – he was 26 years of age.

On 1 May 1940 SGT Bell and his crew of three, took off in their aircraft tasked with a
daylight bombing attack – a distance of some 500km across the North Sea – on Sola
Aerodrome at Stavanger Norway which had recently been occupied by the Luftwaffe.
At 0830 they were shot down 16Km east off the coast of Norway by Luftwaffe pilot Lt
G. Schirmbock flying a Messerschmitt 109.

Their bodies were never recovered.

413319 Flight Sergeant Ronald Bruce McIlroy

Ronald enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force in August 1941.
After the usual round of RAAF training at Bradfield Park, Cootamundra and Parkes he was deployed to England in June 1942 where he underwent further training before being posted to 40 Squadron of the Royal Air Force as a navigator.

When he joined 40 Squadron in March 1943, they were flying Wellington bombers from their base at Gardabia South Tunisia.
On the night of 19/20 April 1943 Ronald’s aircraft was shot down while on a mission over Soliman South in Tunis – possibly in support of the Eighth Army when it captured Enfidaville from the Italians. Ronald is buried in a collective grave at Enfidaville Tunisia.
As well as on this table Ronald is commemorated at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Enfidaville Tunisia and at the Australian War Memorial – he was 21 years of age.

NX44279 Private Neil Alexander Tipping

Neil enlisted into the 2nd Australian Imperial Force in September 1941 where he was posted to the Army Postal Corps. After rudimentary training in Sydney and Melbourne he sailed for Singapore in late November disembarking in December a week after the Japanese had landed on the border between Thailand and Malaya.
When the British forces surrendered two months later in February 1942, he, along with thousands of other Australian and British Prisoners of War, were sent to North Borneo to construct a military airstrip and prisoner of war camps at Sandakan.

In January 1945, the advancing Allies managed to successfully bomb and destroy
the airfield. – the Japanese camp commandant decided to move the prisoners
westward into the mountains to the town of Ranau, a distance of approximately 260

A second series of marches began on 29 May 1945 with approximately 536
prisoners. The march lasted for twenty-six days, with prisoners even less fit than
those in the first marches, provided with fewer rations and often forced to forage for
food. Only 183 prisoners managed to reach Ranau.

Neil was in the second march and died on 4 July 1945 of “illness”. His army file notes that he died at Ranau although we do not know if he reached Ranau or died enroute.
His mate from Greenwich, Gunner Ken McIlroy – brother of FSGT Ron McIlroy – was on the same march and passed away the next day, the 5th of July 1945.

As well as on this table Neil is commemorated at the Labuan Memorial in Labuan Malaysia and at the Australian War Memorial – he was 22 years of age.

Prepared by Graeme Davis
Senior Vice President Lane Cove RSL Sub Branch 11 Mar 19