News National Sydney’s cenotaph attendant retires after 78 years guarding memorial

Sydney’s cenotaph attendant retires after 78 years guarding memorial

Wally Scott on his final day on duty. Photo: ABC
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After keeping watch over the Martin Place cenotaph for 78 years, today Wally Scott-Smith will finally stand at ease.

The 96-year-old will guard the cenotaph from dawn to dusk today for the last time after decades of unwavering dedication – he even escaped from hospital twice to fulfil his duties.

Mr Scott-Smith always wanted to serve his country, but his health got in the way.

In 1937 he was accepted into the Tank Corps, but one week before commencing he had a medical emergency – having about 30 centimetres of his bowel cut out due to cancer.

His career with the army was over before it started.

Determined to serve, he began cleaning the hallowed cenotaph in Martin Place as a boy scout, and by 1946 he was asked if he wanted to take over as chief attendant.

He took the role seriously — the only time he ever left his sick wife’s side was to tend to the cenotaph.

Today he was given a special mention in the Martin Place service and presented with a gift from the Anzac Day Trust by the NSW Governor, General David Hurley.

Mr Scott-Smith has “enjoyed every minute” with the people he has met and has offered his all to those affected by war.

“It’s mainly widows that come to see me, they bring their flowers,” he said.

There was one lady who brought a flower, she put it on the sailor’s hat every day. She came for 32 years.

“At the end, she said because she wasn’t feeling well she mightn’t come.

“So I told her, I’ll put flowers there for you. I did that until she passed.”

As part of his role, Mr Scott-Smith also prepared the flags on either side of the cenotaph, organised wreaths and shared a moment with anyone who stopped by the memorial.

He has kept his obligations through thick and thin, and also in very ill health – even leaving hospital after being on a morphine drip to get to the cenotaph.

Mr Scott-Smith may be on his last official guard today, but he will keep an unofficial watch for the rest of his life.

“Next year I’ll come, sit in a chair over there, and if the fellas aren’t doing it right I’ll go crook,” he said.