By Tania Martin
MARTIN Burt has been the saving grace for Cockatoo’s struggling RSL sub-branch.
He has stepped into the void created following the death of long-time president and World War II Digger, Bob Simonds.
The club faced closure in January with nobody at the helm. Despite admitting it has been a daunting task with some very ‘big shoes’ to fill, Mr Burt has stepped up to the plate.
But the ex-navy man said he couldn’t live with himself if he stood by and watched the RSL close.
“I couldn’t see the doors close and this place become covered in cobwebs, while I was at home thinking maybe I should have done something,” he said.
Mr Burt’s passion for serving his country will now be thrown into his club.
He joined the navy when only 17 as a musician – but he didn’t last long in the navy band.
“I was stuck on low brass practicing in a room the size of a small bathroom, so I requested a transfer,” Mr Burt said.
He then took on a role every young man aspires to be – a quartermaster gunner.
He learnt about all kinds of arms from small handguns to three-storey turrets on ships.
“It was fantastic and great for a young boy,” Mr Burt said.
He stayed in the navy for three years before becoming a pest controller.
Mr Burt tells people “joining up’’ was the best thing he has done – and he can often be heard trying to persuade others to join one of the services.
He never got the chance to go to war but wouldn’t call himself lucky for missing the action.
“It’s something I would have put my hand up for gladly. To fight for your country is why you are in there,” Mr Burt said.
Mr Burt is now planning on building up the Cockatoo RSL, which includes rejuvenating the club.
He said the sub-branch hoped to gain a $50,000 Veterans Affairs grant to spruce up the grounds and the rooms.
The plans include putting in a new verandah at the front and rejuvenating the old gun near the cenotaph.
Mr Burt said the cenotaph was also up for heritage listing, which would make it easier to gain cash to beautify the surrounding area. He also hopes to boost the number of Vietnam veterans at the club.
“We don’t seem to have any … there is a big hole there which we want to fill,” Mr Burt said.
By Tania Martin