This article was first published in Edition 24 of the Brown Hill Community Newsletter, April 2020.
“Well hello neighbour!” I sat down for a coffee with Bruce Wilson of Orchard Lane to find out a little more about his story.
“I’ll always live in Brown Hill, l love it,” started Bruce. “I have lived in Orchard Lane most of my 63 years, having grown up on Mum and Dad's orchard.” Bruce went to Warrenheip Primary School and left high school at the age of 14.
Bruce can't remember what got him into cooking but says he has always wanted to be a cook. He worked at Green's Pies in Main Road for three years then joined the Australian Army at the age of 17 (and three weeks) to be a cook in the Catering Corps.
After eight years in the regular army Bruce returned to Ballarat, working in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for some years, cooking and training cooks. Bruce says, “I cook, I’m not a chef!” Then Mars came to town and Bruce worked there for 20 years.
Bruce says, “Not having land to farm, I have spent the last 13 years on my tractor slashing grass.” He was also heavily involved in the 8th/7th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment in Ballarat (also known as the Australian Army Reserve). Bruce led their catering division.
Bruce has been a member of the Australian Army Reserve's 'Regular Response Force', assisting during and after tragedies, including the Black Saturday fires in February 2009. Bruce says, “This six-week assignment was very tough. We were the first responders after the fire fighters and police. We received the National Emergency Medal for our service and dedication.” Bruce was also awarded an Australia Day Medallion for his work during the 2009 bushfire recovery.
Bruce is a member of the Military Brotherhood - Military Motorcycle Club (MBMMC). The club's mission is to support our veterans, comprising serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Commonwealth Forces members, their families, friends and support riders. This Australia-wide club aims to provide a ‘safe haven’ that creates camaraderie, mateship and commitment. This is done by allowing members the freedom to ride their motorcycles together, to bond together, to enjoy the road together, to look after each other.
The MBMMC has 27 sub groups in Australia with many growing and splitting. Bruce is a Service Member of the Vic West Branch, which currently has 34 members with about 75% being former service personnel, holding ranks from Private to Major. There are also Sierra Squad members, defined as those not having served or service members who do not have a motorcycle. The youngest in Bruce's Club is only three years old!
Bruce explained, “We are very much a mixed-gender family organisation. We visit veterans in private homes and residential care with our bikes and our BBQ to offer support with claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our club is a Legacy sponsor of the 'Path of the Horse' program at Trentham, run by an ex-veteran, to match troubled service persons and civilian service people (CFA, police and others). We have veterans who served in Vietnam right through to those who served in Iraq.”
Bruce says, “It's not all about riding motorbikes. Probably the part I like the most are the family interactions and time spent visiting veterans or doing something to make their lives a little easier. We are available to talk to any group.” In 2018, two members of the local MBMMC, Greg Green and Gavin Sharp, joined Brown Hill's Ed Bawden to speak to Caledonian Primary School students at their ANZAC Day ceremony (see p. 13, Edition 13).
Bruce likes to travel. On a recent trip between Cape York and Darwin, Bruce met up with an old soldier friend and many others along the way. He says, “Service life creates strong bonds.” Bruce hopes to one day travel the Canning Stock Route, Willuna to Halls Creek, a route along which he has already made two attempts. One day, Bruce says, “I hope to travel with eight or nine club members riding Route 66. I’m trying to convince my wife Kerry, currently a non-tourer, to come with us to sample some of life in the U S of A.”
When asked what he likes about Brown Hill, Bruce answers, “Where else would I live? Nowhere. My two kids and their families live across the road so Kerry and I get to be those loving grandparents, always smiling.”
On ANZAC Day 2020, Bruce will be standing in his driveway at 6.00 am, taking part in the Light Up the Dawn initiative. He says, "I like what's going to happen."
Brian Green, Brown Hill Community Newsletter Committee and member of the Brown Hill Lions Club and Brown Hill Progress Association.