A local man with a proud family military history always wanted to do something for ANZAC Day. That chance arose when the RSL Manager in Mildura played ‘Abide With Me.’
“While they played the record, I started singing along with it and they dropped their papers and looked at me,” said Adrian Kent-Johnston.
At his first ANZAC Day dawn service, Adrian was invited to sing acapella renditions of the poignant hymn and the national anthem in front of 4,000 people in Mildura.
He also sang at the later service.
“I’m very humble and grateful to my singing teacher, Di Magor, for all the time that she’s taken to show me what she knows,” said Adrian.
“I owe a lot to Di.”
Adrian also receives singing instruction from Brad Cooper from ‘Arias in the Outback,’ when the Opera Australia tenor travels to Broken Hill once a year.
Singing for ANZAC Day held particular meaning for Adrian because of the family stories.
Adrian’s great-grandfather, Herbert John Kent, served in World War One.
“My great-grandfather, Mum’s grandad, served in Gallipoli as a machine gun sergeant,” said Adrian.
“At one point, he was shot and he had to go to France to recover.
“He received a medal for rescuing an officer under fire.”
Adrian’s grandfather, the late, esteemed footballer, Lionel Johnston, worked in signals during World War Two.
Most returned soldiers couldn’t talk about the war but Lionel had grown up in Silverton and, on drives there with Adrian and his twin brother, he told a lot of stories about wartime in Port Moresby in New Guinea.
“I think he was about 19 years old when he shipped out,” said Adrian.
“They were up there for a good three or four years.
“He spent his 21st birthday up there in Moresby.”
The Pacific war was brutal, with sudden Japanese air raids.
“Lionel had to be so fast out of his bed, he put his helmet on his boot,” said Adrian.
“A piece of shrapnel came through the roof where he had been laying.
“If he’d been laying there, it would have killed him.”
Adrian was fascinated with the Pacific war and obtained high marks in the subject at school.
“That’s why I passed it in school – because I remembered the stories,” he said.
Adrian has never missed going to a service on ANZAC Day and he was permitted to be part of the wreath-laying ceremony for this one.
“I was all suited up with my medals and I laid a wreath with the police,” he said.
“I stood up like I was at attention, hand on my chest and I synchronised with the police and the Salvation Army.
Adrian sang “for our veterans and our country.”
“I am humbled by Di’s teaching but feel even more humbled that the RSL has given me the opportunity,” he said.
“To get up and do ANZAC Day was an absolute honour.
Adrian heeded the advice of his mother, Lee Johnston, before his moving performance:
“Don’t be nervous. Imagine your grandfathers are standing beside you and your great-grandpa standing behind.”