Rodney walks in the steps of his forefathers

Cobbers remembered: Rodney O'Regan (centre) with British men Michael Watkins and Andrew Smerdon dresed as Australian soldiers, at the Australian Memorial Park, Frommelles, Northern France. The memorial commemorates those Australians who fought and died during Australia s first attack in France at the Battle of Frommelles, July 19-20, 1916 .

Cobbers remembered: Rodney O'Regan (centre) with British men Michael Watkins and Andrew Smerdon dresed as Australian soldiers, at the Australian Memorial Park, Frommelles, Northern France. The memorial commemorates those Australians who fought and died during Australia s first attack in France at the Battle of Frommelles, July 19-20, 1916 .

RODNEY O'Regan OAM has followed the footsteps of some of the immortal warriors of World War I.

The Hillville resident returned from his trip of a lifetime in which he and others re-traced the steps of soldiers who battled on the Western Front a century ago.

The Vietnam War veteran was the only Australian who helped to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War by taking part in last month's 'Sea to Somme' ride in France.

O'Regan took his place alongside the riders who departed from Belgium on August 14, proceeding along the northern sectors of the western front.

The journey took in most of the places of interest and operation of the British army during the conflict before finishing at the River Somme on August 24.

Rodney and the riders stopped at a number of cemeteries and memorials during the journey, and camped out in farmers' fields and properties as the troops would have 100 years before them.

The chance to retrace the steps of his forefathers was a priceless moment for one of such passion for military history.

"I've had probably the biggest experience of my life, especially being the centenary of the start of World War I, " he said.

"Having two grandfathers who served in WWI and retracing the steps of my forefathers means a lot.

"It doesn't get any better than what I've just done, reliving history."

It was while marching with the many different nationalities which made the Australian ponder what it would really have been like in war-time Europe.

"Especially marching up a narrow, cobblestone street, with the French, British, German and Belgium riders," he said.

"There all singing their songs, and you can't help going back 100 years and thinking about it."

The Sea to Somme ride was a non-stop adventure in which paying tribute to the fallen was a constant theme.

"In the 16 days I was away I never stopped, and we attended three or more ceremonies a day at which we laid wreaths," he said.

"I attended 40 or 50 ceremonies at least and it was like having three Anzac marches a day.

"It's a pilgrimage, all of us from the different countries going over there."

And there was one ceremony which stood out from the rest.

"The biggest was the parade at Mons, France through the small cobblestone streets to the town centre," he said.

"And the highlight of that day was meeting the Prime Minister of Belgium."

Mr O'Regan said the inclement weather belied the fact it was a European summer.

"It was raining two or three times a day, so much for a Belgium summer," he said.

Of the 16 days commemorating the Great War, the Australian visitor had a clear highlight of his time spent in Europe.

"The highlight was riding the mule on the beach at Newport in Belgium," he said.

"It was a most exhilarating feeling galloping on the beach."

Mr O'Regan said the time spent re-enacting World War I events reminded of his own time serving in Vietnam.

"My word it did, but you can't compare the two with the hard time these guys went through," he said.

"They were living in continual dampness and mud in basic conditions, and were always under fire,

"Vietnam wasn't like that, as I was there for 365 days and there was not one day I was under constant fire."

Funds raised on the trip went to a number of UK based charities, including Blue Cross, Royal British Legion and Horseworld.

The OAM recipient is renowned throughout the Manning for his light horse reenactment and education work which has seen him represent the Australian Light Horse at different commemoration ceremonies in the area.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop