Driving our Diggers: Vintage car club honoured to assist Bega Valley's veterans

Max Sinclair sits in his classic Graham Paige vehicle ahead of Thursday's Anzac Day parade. Photo: Rachel Mounsey
Max Sinclair sits in his classic Graham Paige vehicle ahead of Thursday's Anzac Day parade. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

If you were at one of Bega Valley's Anzac parades yesterday, you surely would have noticed a few medal-pinned veterans waving proudly from classic vintage cars.

The Sapphire Coast Historical Vehicle Club has been driving our diggers past cheering crowds down the main streets of Bega Valley for more than 30 years.

Club president Max Sinclair said when the idea was first suggested at a club meeting back in 1987 he said he felt proud and honoured at the thought of driving our veterans through the parades.

"It was really an honour for us (the car club) to be able to participate in Anzac Day," he said.

Since then every year, the day before the big parade Max polishes up his vintage 1929 Graham Paige four door sedan.

"I bought this beauty from a museum in Berry around '86," he says with pride. "She was a little bit upmarket in her time - the type of car land owners would have driven around."

A hand tinted photograph of Max Sinclair's uncles rides with him during every march. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

A hand tinted photograph of Max Sinclair's uncles rides with him during every march. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

In the centre of the shiny dashboard he gently wedges a hand tinted photograph out of the chrome ashtray. Two diggers stand side by side in uniforms and slouched hats, brightly painted Aussie flags billow out from behind their backs. The WWI soldiers pictured are Max's uncles and every year their photograph does the rounds with him.

"They were brothers, one of them, Uncle Percy, was gassed in a trench but he made it home. The other one was killed in action in France. You get emotional just thinking about it," he says.

This year, four different cars were used in the parades. The original intention was for the cars to match the war eras. However the club has found it's best to use what is most practical for the veterans.

"People don't book in or anything, we just turn up on the day, we never know who is going to get in. The cars have to be smooth and have enough leg room."

According to Max the number of classic cars participating in the march has dropped over the years. This year only four cars were used between Eden and Merimbula.

Anzac Day 2019: Fred Silk chauffeurs Eden veterans Barry Beck and Peter Rice through the Imlay Street parade. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Anzac Day 2019: Fred Silk chauffeurs Eden veterans Barry Beck and Peter Rice through the Imlay Street parade. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Barry Beck and Peter Rice salute the cheering crowd. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Barry Beck and Peter Rice salute the cheering crowd. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Ex-military vehicle a Plymouth 1941 ute complete with Army Registration Number 88777, is parked in the club's garage awaiting the Merimbula parade. The truck once used in WWII by the Women's Land Army has a long bench seat in the ute's tray. Over the years this seat has been filled with many of the valley's diggers now passed.

Aussie Flags in the 1941 Plymouth utility vehicle. This ute was once used by the Land Army in WW2. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Aussie Flags in the 1941 Plymouth utility vehicle. This ute was once used by the Land Army in WW2. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

"We used to fill 8 or 9 cars but as the old fellas passed away, we just don't have the crowds wanting to get in," Max says.

"And although the cars are available for the ex service men and women, some prefer to stick it out and soldier on on foot with the others," he adds.

LEST WE FORGET: The wreath of the Sapphire Coast Historical Vehicle Club sits in the back seat of the Graham Paige a seat where many diggers have sat before. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

LEST WE FORGET: The wreath of the Sapphire Coast Historical Vehicle Club sits in the back seat of the Graham Paige a seat where many diggers have sat before. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

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