Imagine being the person responsible for ordering the first shot fired by an Australian in World War One? Well Sean Barker’s Great-Grandfather, Richard Stanley Veale, did just that.
Britain had just declared war when a German ship, the Pfalz, was attempting to leave the heads at Port Philip Bay on the 5thof August 1914 and was ordered to stop. Veale was a midshipman on a boat tasked with intercepting the Pfalz and after it failed to follow instructions to come to a halt, Veale lifted the H signal flag which indicated a hostile vessel. Following that, the gunners at Fort Nepean fired upon the German ship.
Veale then served in the South Pacific islands, China and East Indies stations, mainly aboard the HMAS Encounter, for the remainder of the war before continuing in the naval reserves after its conclusion in 1918.
As fate can be a strange thing, Veale also gave the order to Fort Nepean to fire Australia’s first shot in World War Two, on September 4th, 1939. He was in charge of the Bass Strait approaches towards Port Philip Bay.
When an Australian freighter, the SS Woniora, had failed to acknowledge the recognition signal, Lieutenant Commander Veale ordered for a shot to be fired across its bow from the same gunner at Fort Nepean.
Fast forward to 2019 and Sean Barker will be making his own mark on Australian history, playing for the Australia squad against France as part of the 2019 ANZAC Cup played at Villers-Bretonneux.
Sean is still relatively new to the game, having been invited to a few training sessions at the Paris Cockatoos in 2016 through a friend.
“I’m pretty hopeless at the skills but really appreciated the comradeship and the laid-back atmosphere of the Paris Cockatoos. I played a few other sports at various clubs in Paris, but the Paris footy club is something special,” he said.
Sean has been working in France since 2013 and attended the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux 2014 but wasn’t aware that there was an ANZAC Cup event. Now he plays with and against members of the French squad week in, week out.
“I attended the dawn service in 2014. It was an experience I will never forget. I was amazed at the number of people who came out in the freezing temperatures to this small village, not just Australians, but the French community who still pay their respect,” Sean said.
Sean has also visited many of the sites on the Western Front since moving to France and as a result, has learnt a lot more about the experiences many of the ANZAC’s went through.
When Sean takes to the field this year, his Uncle, grandson of Richard Veale, will be attending the match as well. In this case, it might feel like a full-circle moment for Sean, with his Great-Grandfather a member of the ANZAC’s during both World Wars and now Sean will be representing him in a football match that illustrates many of the ANZAC values.
From growing up with along the sun-drenched beaches of the Gold Coast to now living in France with his fiancée Laurianne and about to play for Australia at the ANZAC Cup, this is an experience Sean never thought would happen but is certainly excited about.
“I can honestly say that it never crossed my mind to be playing Aussie Rules in France. I grew up on the magnificent Gold Coast beaches surfing and playing rugby and had never kicked the red Sherrin. It’s pretty surreal to be playing this match, can’t wait!” He said.
It will be another piece of history that he will be able to hold on to and share with his family, just like that of his Great-Grandfather Richard Stanley Veale.
Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.