Primary school kids send thank-you notes to Anzac veterans

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 22 April 2020

Primary school children honour Anzacs by sending heart-felt thank-you letters.

Anzac Day 2020 will be like none other, but 30 Melbourne primary-school children are keeping the Anzac spirit alive by writing to veterans at home.

For many decades, RACV has co-ordinated volunteer drivers to transport veterans to the Anzac Day march and ceremony. But with the usual events cancelled this year, the schoolchildren wanted to reach out and write letters to each of the 35 veterans who had booked RACV’s free door-to-door service to the march.

WWII veteran Robert Jeavons

WWII veteran Robert Jeavons

Lysterfield Primary School teacher Caillin Ibbotson asked her grade 5 and 6 students, aged 10 to 12, if they’d like to write to the veterans.

It wasn’t a set assignment, but 30 children volunteered because they wanted to let veterans know they were thinking of them on Anzac Day, she says. 

Some children wrote to more than one veteran and many included personal notes about themselves and their families or were full of questions about the veterans, she says.

“We have a few students whose great-grandparents or grandparents were part of the army, navy or air force and there are scouts who always participate in Anzac Day services, while others are genuinely interested in history and the Anzacs,” Caillin says.

“Many want a return letter from their veterans to keep up the relationship.”

Molly, 10, wrote to Robert Jeavons (pictured above), 93, from Brighton, who served in World War II and who led last year’s Melbourne Anzac Day march as a naval representative alongside veterans from the army and air force. (More: World War II veterans remember ‘good times and terrible times’.)

“I would love to say thank you for fighting for our country’s freedom. It means that I can do the things I can do today!” Molly wrote. “Thinking of you on Anzac Day.”

As well as the letters, every veteran who had signed up to be driven to the march will get a call from an RACV volunteer on Anzac Day. 

RACV’s Anzac Day driving service is a tradition that stretches back to World War I when car ownership was rare. RACV members volunteered their cars to meet almost 300 hospital ships at Station Pier in Port Melbourne and transport the injured to hospital. (More: Letters from the World War I trenches.)

By the end of the war, RACV’s Volunteer Transport Unit had driven more than 93,000 returning soldiers and nurses from ships to hospital or to military barracks, a massive task for a club with only 1400 members.

The club was recognised for its wartime contribution by King George V in 1916, who gave the club its royal prefix, changing its name to the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.

Here are excerpts from some of the letters written by the students to veterans.

  • “Thank you for serving our country. I will never forget the Australians that served our country. I find learning about what happened in the past really interesting. I have been reading books and learning about my great-grandfather who served in World War II and my Poppa who completed National Service.” Travis
  • “It is important to keep the Anzac spirit alive and even if it will be commemorated differently this year it is important to still take time to remember … My Nana was in the navy and my grandfather was in the air force.” Tegan
  • “In honour of the sacrifice you made my family will be celebrating Anzac Day with a minute’s silence at 6am; we have even made a decoration out of a milk carton and drawn poppies on it. We will put a candle in it to light up on ANZAC morning.” Maddison
  • “I am honoured to live in a country where you and many men and women have fought to create peace. Even though I am 11 years old I also had a great-grandfather who fought in the First World War at Gallipoli and luckily made it out like you. How was the food?” Tara
  • “I want to tell you a bit about me, every Anzac Day my dad takes my sisters and I to a dawn service near us. Since we can’t go this year, we are going to have a little service in our driveway.” Lexi
  • “My great-grandfather Costa went to World War II. He lived in Cyprus and went to Israel, he was on duty for taking care of horses. Happily, he made it back alive. He's 98, turning 99 in May. He lives in East Bentleigh near my grandpa and grandma.” Antonio
  • “I am very upset that I can’t go to the march this year. Anzac Day is a big part of my family since my pop went to World War II. Last year … I had the honour of carrying the class’s wreath … down to the front of assembly. I was very happy I got to do that to show how much I really appreciate your work that you did. I love celebrating Anzac Day and every year I buy a badge (I have a stash at home).” Mia
  • “How old were you when you went to war? I think some people went to war when they were 16. That seems very young.” Sienna
  • “I’ve been very honoured to have marched for the past three years in the Anzac Day March in Upwey with my local scout group. I’m feeling very sad that I won't be able to march alongside all the brave veterans, with my family watching.” Miranda
  • “What did you do in the war? Were you a nurse? I’m going to tell you things about myself: I have a twin sister and a younger sister, my great-grandma was born on the day before my birthday, I like dogs, legos, trains and reading.” Brandon