Meet those who keep the doors of the Frank Partridge VC Military Museum, Bowraville, open

THE TEAM (MOSTLY): Back row from left, Lance Noble, John Spiller, Robert and Dallas Metz, Chris Mayon, front, Sharyn Hay, Missy Blakey, Blew Maning, Spud Murphy
THE TEAM (MOSTLY): Back row from left, Lance Noble, John Spiller, Robert and Dallas Metz, Chris Mayon, front, Sharyn Hay, Missy Blakey, Blew Maning, Spud Murphy

At the Frank Partridge VC Military Museum in Bowraville "it is Remembrance Day every day".

"Here we endeavour to remember the service and sacrifice of all personnel who have served this country in war, at home and overseas, 365 days a year," President Blew Maning said.

Founded in 1995 as the Combined Services Museum with the help of the local RSL, Nambucca Shire Council and others, it was renamed in honour of the town's World War Two hero and Victoria Cross recipient, Frank Partridge, in 2001 and moved into the spacious Old Council Chambers in 2004.

Thanks to the steady flow of donated military artefacts, this little country museum now boasts an astonishing collection of memorabilia - there is everything from badges, bombs, uniforms and guns to military vehicles and artillery with special attention given to honouring local servicemen and women.

THE MAX COWARD COLLECTION: Three hundred highly-decorated envelopes by World War One soldier and artist Max Coward. Photos: UTE SCHULENBERG

THE MAX COWARD COLLECTION: Three hundred highly-decorated envelopes by World War One soldier and artist Max Coward. Photos: UTE SCHULENBERG

An impressive military reference library, one of the largest in NSW, is a credit to librarian Anne Baxter.

While those who run the museum claim the 'Max Coward Collection' of 300 superbly decorated envelopes, sent from the young soldier Max back home to his mother, as the jewel in the collection, the real gems are the volunteers themselves.

All have different skills and everyone is valued for what they offer.

It's Remembrance Day here every day

Museum Presient, Blew Maning

There's Spud Murphy who, as a cancer survivor, can no longer work full-time, so he helps get things done at the museum: "The companionship is special - there is no better place to be."

And Vietnam veteran Robert Metz, whose wife 'volunteered' him years ago. He's now a fixture (and a fixer) on Wednesdays: "Being here is a way of giving back to the community - the whole district benefits from the museum."

His brother Dallas is also here, as is Lance Noble, the indispensable organiser of the Wednesday night raffles up at the Ex-Services Club, a vital income source: "We all look after each other - I've known a lot of these blokes since I was a boy."

After 11 years Chris Mayon keeps on coming "because these are a great bunch of blokes" plus he gets great joy from introducing visitors to the collection, especially kids, whose faces light up in amazement at some of the 'old-world' technology.

THE WORKSHOP: Volunteers keep all these machines well-oiled and in working order

THE WORKSHOP: Volunteers keep all these machines well-oiled and in working order

For John Spiller, a defence force veteran of 38 years, the museum keeps him in touch with his past professional life.

"Anything to do with the Defence Force and I'm in ... this is a great place to drop into and have a cuppa. It does everyone a lot of good to be together."

But this is no 'boys only' club, and while their numbers are smaller, women are certainly welcome.

Missy Blakey had a father and a brother in the armed forces and helps with the mammoth task of keeping the catalogues up to date.

"We have about 6000 items which include photos and gear and each one is photographed and carded including information about its donor," Missy said.

It gives us mysteries to work on

Sharyn Hay

"Being here is all about remembering those who served - and hoping such wars never happen again, no matter how futile that seems."

She works together with Sharyn Hay, who was brought into the fold a couple of years ago after the loss of her husband.

"Artefacts are brought to us constantly and we research them - it gives us mysteries to work on," she said.

But there is no denying the backbone to the entire operation is Blew, in spite of his self-deprecating ways.

He's the one who keeps this unlikely bunch of volunteers together and organised.

GOOD MATES: Charlie Templeton and Blew Maning

GOOD MATES: Charlie Templeton and Blew Maning

"I can't remember exactly when I got involved with the museum but I've been the president for the last 13 years." Blew said.

"I'm here because I enjoy it and it needs doing," Blew said, nudging his right-hand man, Charlie Templeton, the museum's IT specialist.

Charlie laughs: "I'm here to do my bit, to help Blew and to offer the skills that I have."

And that really sums this place up - it is special not only for its collection but also because of the people who do their bit to keep the Frank Partridge VC Military Museum open to the world seven days a week.

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