Battling the searing 36-degree heat and humidity of Darwin, soldiers and officers of the 8th/12th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (8/12Regt RAA), pushed a massive 2500kg M2A2 howitzer across a gruelling 20-kilometre route, in the name of charity.
CAPTION: Soldiers from the 8th/12th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery push a 2500kg M2A2 howitzer on a 20km journey through Darwin City to raise funds for the Gunner Bear charity. Story by Captain Annie Richardson. Photos by Sub-Lieutenant Chloe Reay.
Starting at the Darwin Cenotaph and finishing at the Royal Darwin Hospital, the Gunner Bear Gun Push is a regiment tradition dating back more than two decades.
Commanding Officer of the 8/12Regt RAA Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Colclough said the Gunner Bear event has a significant place in Army history.
“Gunner Bear started when the regiment first moved to Darwin in 1999, when one of the officers posted in had a sick child who became a patient at the Royal Darwin Hospital,” he said.
“This sparked the idea for a fundraiser with the regiment, which has now become a biannual tradition, and we’ve now raised over $500,000 dollars for the paediatric wards across the NT through these efforts.”
The 2023 event’s mission was crystal clear: to raise funds for new equipment for the paediatric ward at the Royal Darwin Hospital.
The soldiers’ journey kicked off at 8.30am, and showcased their physical prowess as they pushed the M2A2 howitzer through the heart, and heat, of Darwin.
At almost 1pm, with only three teams swapping out and no break from the sun, the soldiers and officers reached the Royal Darwin Hospital.
The culmination of their efforts was marked by a significant donation from across the community, as 8/12Regt RAA presented a cheque for $45,000 to the paediatric ward of the Royal Darwin Hospital.
Nursing Co-Director Division Women Children and Youth, Royal Darwin and Palmerston Hospitals NT Health, Sara-Ann Harn, was grateful for the cheque and shared the hospital’s plans for the money.
“This is an amazing initiative, and we really value this collaboration from our friends in the ADF,” Ms Harn said.
“The money raised from Gunner Bear will be used to upgrade our equipment in the paediatric ward, and in particular, our monitors, which are essential to monitoring our littlest Territorians’ conditions.
“Early detection of any changes in their conditions enables us to act quickly and respond to their needs.
“A huge thank you to everyone involved, for being out in the super-hot conditions and for showing their support,” Ms Harn said.
Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Colclough praised the local community and said he looked forward to future events.
“Darwin is a unique community – we’re close-knit, and we’re also very isolated,” Lieutenant Colonel Colclough said.
“The soldiers have made an incredible effort to invest in their community – both on the gun and out there collecting donations – and our corporate sponsors, our community, and our Defence Family have all been amazing.
“I hope that Gunner Bear endures for the future – we’ve been doing it for 20 years already – so I hope that I could come back to Darwin in 30 years and Gunner Bear would still be running.”
The spirit of generosity is likely to persist into the new year, with the total goal of $50,000 in sight for 2024.
To make a Donation to the paediatric ward of the Royal Darwin Hospital, visit the Gunner Bear page.
CAPTION: A soldier from the 8th/12th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery and mascot Gunner Bear with children at the Royal Darwin Hospital following the Gunner Bear charity Gun Push.