Unaware: Nashua resident Brian Nash and two of his four children Sam, 10 (rear) and India, 12, were possibly the last Australians to fly out of Paris before airports shut down due to a volcanic ash stream over Europe.
Unaware: Nashua resident Brian Nash and two of his four children Sam, 10 (rear) and India, 12, were possibly the last Australians to fly out of Paris before airports shut down due to a volcanic ash stream over Europe. Corinne Nash

Volcano stops war pilgrimage

VOLCANIC ash in the Northern hemisphere has disrupted the travel plans of thousands of people, but perhaps none more poignantly than Robbie Gambley.

Mr Gambley, of Casino, set out on Saturday on a pilgrimage to the World War I battlefields of France to honour his great uncle, but was stopped at Brisbane Airport by a Singapore Airlines official saying there would be no flights for five days.

The delay meant Mr Gambley’s hopes of being at the towns of Ypres and Passchendaele for Anzac Day, where James Gambley had served between 1915 and 1919, were scuppered.

‘Jim’ Gambley, of Old Bonalbo, was driver of a gun team for the 7th Field Artillery Brigade and helped rebuild Ypres after the war. His courage and endurance had been a great source of strength to the young Robbie during some very difficult parts of his life.

His great uncle had had a sweetheart in Sydney who he hoped to marry. But the separation, and the trauma of the war, meant it was not to be.

The young couple remained single for the rest of their lives, Mr Gambley said.

About his travel disruption, Mr Gambley said: “It’s very disheartening, but I have to put it in perspective.”

He now hopes to make the journey next year.

More fortunate was the Nash family of Nashua.

They did not realise as they boarded a plane in Paris that they would be among the last Australians to fly out before European airports shut down.

Within hours of winging it out of France, the volcano in Iceland that had been dormant for more than 100 years began to belch thousands of tonnes of ash across Europe.

It was not until Corinne and Brian Nash and their four children arrived in Korea for a stop-over that they discovered what was happening.

“We met these angry Australians at our hotel who should have been on their way to Europe,” Mrs Nash said.

“We asked them what was going on and they said ‘the volcano’ so we of course said ‘what volcano?’"

Mrs Nash said she had been frightened that her family might not have made it out of Korea.

“But the Australasian side is running well.”

Mrs Nash said the family had not seen the news as they travelled around Europe because they were too busy enjoying themselves.

“My husband and I are just so relieved to be home because of work commitments,” she said.

“But I think the children would probably have been delighted to have been stranded – they would have missed out on more school.”

Few of the young travellers in Byron Bay said they were likely to be affected by the ash.

Indeed, it seems backpackers lead a charmed life when it comes to travel. Nobody spoken to by The Northern Star had ever experienced delays or hold-ups.

This included three Japanese, who had met up in Byron Bay.

Sally Okada, from Tokyo, Yota Ogawa, from Chiba, and Shinji Tasakio, from Kumamoto all arrived on the Gold Coast and are set to take different paths around the country at the end of the week.



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