RSL pays tribute to unsung hero

LOCAL SON: Ian Dyett with a photo of his great uncle, Sir Gilbert Dyett.
LOCAL SON: Ian Dyett with a photo of his great uncle, Sir Gilbert Dyett.

BENDIGO and District Returned Services League will pay tribute to one of the city's unsung heroes as it celebrates its 90th anniversary this weekend.

The club's proud president, Cliff Richards, said the occasion was a milestone for the community and a credit to the returned servicemen and women of Bendigo, in particular the late Captain Sir Gilbert Dyett.

"The fact that we've reached 90 years here is a great achievement," he said.

"We believe the Bendigo sub-branch was the first outside of Melbourne in 1916, and I'm proud to say we've been assisting veterans and their families for all these years."

Mr Richards confirmed more than 1000 returned servicemen and women were RSL members in Bendigo and numbers were steady.

"We've had 34 new members join us over the last month and a lot of them are currently serving as both regular and reserve soldiers," he said.

"A large percentage of our older veterans are in their 80s now and that has changed the way we provide our services.

"We give out a lot of aged care assistance now.

"But we very happy to see the younger soldiers join up, and it's very important that we give them the support they need."

Veterans and guests at tonight's dinner will be the first to see the rare and priceless military collection of local son, Sir Gilbert Dyett.

Mr Richards said Sir Gilbert was a national hero, but sadly very few locals even recognised his name.

Sir Gilbert was the great uncle of local identity, Ian Dyett, who is proud to be displaying the memorabilia.

"He was a man who dedicated his whole life to returned men and women, and in doing so, he never married," Mr Dyett said.

"He fought in the battle of Gallipoli and is much remembered for a classic understatement he made in 1915: `I was bombed in the head, shoulder and back, and it gave me a great shaking up'.

"He came back, and in 1916, was the first president of the Bendigo RSL Club and went on to become the Federal RSL president.

"He was first knighted in 1927, and in 1934 was knighted again as a Knight Bachelor."

Mr Dyett said his great uncle attended numerous international conferences and met with delegates around the world.

Mr Dyett added: "On reflection, he was a man who probably shouldn't have gone so far.

"He wasn't the son of a doctor or lawyer, he was the son of a blacksmith and an Irish Catholic and he was from Bendigo.

"But still, at important meetings sitting two seats from Churchill was Gilbert Dyett from Bendigo."

Mr Dyett said the family would unveil a range of Sir Gilbert's memorabilia, including his war medals, photographs, writing and rare and precious war medals, usually housed in a vault.

Some of Sir Gilbert's collection is on display at Canberra's National Museum.

BDRSL members and their families will be joined by representatives of 8th/7th Royal Victorian Regiment and 15 Transport Squadron, schools and Bendigo cCouncil at tonight's celebrations.