Connecting during COVID

Connecting during COVID

Matilda Dray 24 June 2020

Heartwarming stories of members supporting each other during isolating times.

The coronavirus lockdown situation has been challenging for some members who thrive on the camaraderie of Sub Branch gatherings. But some have found inventive alternatives to connect – from making food hampers for those in need to surprise renditions of happy birthday for older and isolated veterans.

Here are just a handful of ways our Defence community has been connecting during COVID-10.



Around 40 Sunnybank RSL Sub Branch members lined the footpath outside WWII veteran Roy Biddle’s home to wish him a happy 100th birthday on 16 May. They were joined by Roy’s family members, who organised the socially distanced surprise. Roy was taken aback by how many of his mates turned up.

His visitors sang happy birthday and wished him continued good health. Roy served in the 67th Australian Infantry Battalion during the war and is still a regular participant in the social indoor bowls competition at Sunnybank Soldiers’ Memorial Hall.

One of Roy’s daughters is pictured reading the card he received from Queen Elizabeth II. He received other well wishes from the Governor-General, Prime Minister and Premier.


Wynnum RSL Sub Branch has been doing what it can to help during the lockdown, including food deliveries to some of its members in need.


COVID-19 restrictions didn’t stop Beerwah and District RSL Sub Branch member David Edwards from celebrating his 100th birthday. Sub Branch President John Nisbett dropped by to wish David well from a safe distance.

Born in Horsham, Victoria, David joined the Army in 1942. His 7th Battalion trained at several camps in Victoria and moved to Darwin once mobilised for war service. They were on route when the northern capital was first bombed. The Battalion remained in Darwin for 18 months. After intensive pre-deployment training at Atherton Tablelands, the Battalion was deployed to Bougainville in 1944 and remained there in various locations until the end of the war. David transitioned as a Lieutenant in 1946.

After the war, David returned to his pre-service job at the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac) in Victoria and Queensland until retirement. He attributes his longevity to good genes, remaining active and having many interests outside of work.


While COVID-19 restrictions have been difficult for many people, it was a breeze for members of the Submariners Association, who are used to being locked away for long periods of time. The Association used the time to help Holbrook Submarine Museum in NSW. It is the only dedicated submarine museum in Australia and houses many important artefacts from submarines dating back to the AE2 and 1.

The Association donated funds to the museum and formed the Friends of Holbrook Submarine Museum (FHSM). The group created a website at and invites members of the public to join and help support the museum and preserve its artefacts.

The first commissioning crew of HMAS Otway are pictured at their 50-year reunion in September 2019 in Coolangatta.


Although Victory in Europe Day went by quietly this year, National Servicemen’s Association President Alex Garlin took the time to lay a wreath at the Allies Memorial at South Eastern District on behalf of Salisbury RSL Sub Branch and the National Servicemen’s Association.

  • Veteran stories
  • Health & wellbeing