The significance of Anzac Day runs deep through the veins of Slater and Gordon as both our founding fathers William (Bill) Slater and Hugh Gordon served their country, Bill in WW I and Hugh in WW II. This Anzac Day, we pay tribute to their service and to the service of others at the Firm.
As European armies began to move in 1914, William (Bill) Slater struggled with his conscience. He hated war, but death loomed over his generation; how could he stay at home while the world was falling apart?
He reached a compromise with himself and volunteered to join the Australian Field Ambulance and was shipped to Northern France in 1916 to join the horrific trench warfare of the Western Front.
During his time on the frontline, Bill was injured, poisoned by gas and almost buried alive after a high-velocity shell struck metres from the dugout he was sleeping in at Messines Ridge.
He wrote in his diary in February 1917:
“My God, the awfulness of it all I’ll never forget… all hell is let loose as shells burst with terrible frequency and force all around us.These are the times when one’s soul rebels against war and everything for which it stands.”
Bill was discharged due to illness and returned to Australia in 1918 where he took up his post in the Victorian Parliament having been elected while he was at the front. In 1923, he married Mary Gordon and with her brother Hugh, would go on to establish Slater and Gordon.
Hugh Gordon was born on 5 June 1909 in Mildura and went on to study law at Melbourne University. His brother-in-law, William Slater, had had a successful political career but after witnessing the severe impact of the Depression era he decided to re-energise his law practice. He took Hugh into partnership in March 1935 and the firm became Slater and Gordon.
Slater and Gordon took off but no sooner had the partnership become fully established than war broke out in Europe in 1939. By 1941, so heavy were the Allied losses and setbacks that Hugh felt he had to enlist. He trained as a navigator and was commissioned as Pilot Officer in June 1942. He sailed out three months later.
Once in England, he joined the newly formed Pathfinder force which guided bombing squadrons to their targets. It was dangerous work and casualties were high.
On 14 June 1943, not long after his 34th birthday, Hugh’s squadron took off for what was to be his final mission before he was transferred back to Australia. Over Nijmegen, just near the Dutch/German border the aircraft was shot down by a German fighter. There were no survivors.
Hugh left behind his wife Elspeth (Essie). The couple had no children. When William Slater heard the devastating news, he vowed to keep the name Slater and Gordon in honour of his fallen brother-in-law.
Hugh is buried in the Jonkerbos War Cemetery in Nijmegen, Holland.
National Health and Safety Manager Matt Runzi has been with Slater and Gordon for nearly 3 years. But before this he had strong history in multiple military roles across both the US and Australian army. We asked him about what Anzac Day means to him:
For myself, and most veterans I would say, it’ a bittersweet time for us. I am very proud of what we, and all of those who came before us, have done and achieved. Anzac Day is about respect. Particularly for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. And it makes sure we don’t forget about our soldiers, sailors and airmen currently deployed on operations right now.
As a country, we rightfully honour them on this day, but we must be mindful of the plight of our veterans of yesteryear, today and into the future.
It’s also a very sad and reflective time when I think all of those lives sacrificed for the freedoms and way of life we enjoy in Australia.
Lest we forget
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