Parkes Shire's Anzac Day ceremonies given the go-ahead in 2021

GUEST OF HONOUR: Parkes' special guest of honour for Anzac Day this year will be Air Vice Marshall (Rtd) Leigh Gordon OAM, AM, who is looking forward to mingling with locals on April 25. Photo: Submitted

GUEST OF HONOUR: Parkes' special guest of honour for Anzac Day this year will be Air Vice Marshall (Rtd) Leigh Gordon OAM, AM, who is looking forward to mingling with locals on April 25. Photo: Submitted

Anzac Day ceremonies in the Parkes Shire will go ahead this year following the approval and announcement from the NSW Returned Services League (RSL) of Australia.

RSL NSW State Secretary Jeff O'Brien said the leading ex-service support and advocacy service for veterans has been working with the NSW Government to ensure dawn services, marches and other commemorative events can take place this April.

"Under the current health advice, it is permissible for RSL NSW sub-branches to organise a controlled outdoor event this Anzac Day," Mr O'Brien said.

Parkes RSL Sub-Branch secretary Paul Thomas said it is a great result.

"It's a great example of how RSL NSW works with state and federal governments to improve outcomes for veterans and their families," he said.

"The Parkes Sub-Branch is already well advanced with their 2021 plans with their special guest of honour being Air Vice Marshall (Rtd) Leigh Gordon OAM, AM."

Gordon is a former Parkes man who completed his schooling at Parkes High School and began an engineering degree at the Goobang Shire Council under chief engineer Tom Morrissey before joining the Royal Australian Air Force.

Gordon has also accepted an invitation to attend Parkes High School where he will address students and enjoy a meet and greet.

Highlights of Gordon's career include Head of Aerospace Systems Division in the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) in August, 2013. He was then appointed Head of the Joint Strike Fighter Project.

This project delivered the fifth generation F-35A Lightning II to the RAAF.

Gordon was instrumental for many Australian companies gaining contracts to supply componentry parts for the F-35A.

In 2021 Gordon was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service in responsible positions in acquisition and sustainment of aerospace systems for the Australian Defence Force.

This award followed his appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2015.

"This year's Anzac Day is more significant as it also sees the Royal Australian Air Force celebrate 100 years of service," Mr Thomas said.

"Parkes over the years has contributed significantly with personnel that has included Air Marshall Leslie Bruce Fisher who for four years was the Chief of the RAAF.

"Both Leigh Gordon and Stephen Osborne rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshall - Osborne is still serving - while the efforts of Flight Officer Rawdon Middleton, a Victoria Cross recipient, and Pilot Officer Colin Francis Hendry gained a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts of fortitude, courage and devotion to duty during World War 2.

"These distinguished personnel are just the tip of the iceberg of many fine individuals from this district who have gone onto distinguished careers in the RAAF."

In returning to Parkes after his long-distinguished career, Gordon said he is welcoming the chance to meet as many locals as possible, and despite the Anzac Day program of events, he will find time to socialise.

Anzac Day commemorations will include the dawn service on Memorial Hill, Anzac Day march, commemorative celebration in Cooke Park, the official Anzac Day luncheon, as well as the awarding of the winners for both the junior and champion Anzac Biscuit Cooking Competition that will take place this year (see full story soon) and presentations to all Parkes schools.

Mr Thomas said the sub-branch has received tremendous support from Parkes Shire Council and it is hoped the event can go ahead as planned, despite the threats caused by Covid 19.

However, organisers do have alternative plans in place if changes are forced upon by NSW Government regulations.