THOUSANDS of young men from the Far South Coast went off to fight in World War 1 “to serve King, Empire and Country”.
About 220 of them died and their names, alongside the names of those who survived and returned to Australia after the War, are recorded on memorials that can be seen in almost every local town.
Now history buff and researcher Peter Lacey of Quaama is in the process of a study to identify all of the soldiers from the Narooma district and Bodalla to the Victorian border who died during World War 1.
His mission is to compile mini biographies of each of them and he has already compiled a booklet that is ready for printing.
“Every time The Ode is recited in RSL clubs or at functions like Anzac Day, we pledge ‘we will remember them’ to all those who died representing Australia in military conflicts,” Mr Lacey said.
“And while we do remember them as a group, regrettably we have generally forgotten to remember them as individuals.
“So this project aims to compile biographies of every local soldier who died during World War 1- those who were feted locally as heroes in the 1910s and 1920s – so that each of the names on local war memorials will have more meaning to us today.”
There are so many fascinating stories such as the case of Herbert Victor Clarke who appears on the Narooma War Memorial.
Clarke is listed even though it seems he had no connection to Narooma and he was not even killed; he and his brother were from Pambula, and neither was killed, but they were both wounded, H V Clarke badly, five times in total.
Helping out has been fellow World War I researcher Dr Philip Creagh of Narooma.
Peter explained his project was a greatly expanded version geographically of the work that Dr Creagh had been undertaking on those who were killed from his old school, Sydney Grammar, and those who are listed on the Narooma War Memorial.
”Philip has given my project great support suggesting, for example, that I should expand the area covered northwards to include Bodalla, and alerting me to things like Herbert Victor Clarke's name appearing on both the Narooma and Pambula War Memorials,” he said.
“Philip has also willingly shared his extensive knowledge of World War 1 to the first class I held in Bermagui.
“He then agreed to lead a whole session of the course in Narooma, describing in vivid detail the military experiences of each of the soldiers who are named as having died during World War 1 on the Narooma War Memorial.”
Mr Lacey said he expected the whole project would take several years to complete and was a sort of local mini contribution to the forthcoming centenary celebrations of World War 1.
The first results of Mr Lacey’s research are contained in a booklet, “We Will Remember Them”, that is now ready for printing.
It includes the biographies of soldiers whose names appear on memorials between Bodalla and Quaama, along with historical notes that explain some of the unusual biographical details that have been discovered about these soldiers.
“Included are several examples of local boys being killed in some of Australia’s most celebrated military actions, alongside heart-wrenching stories of bereaved families battling seemingly-uncaring bureaucracies, alongside stories of soldiers who were clearly unlucky and in one case just plainly stupid!” he said.
“We are aiming to have the booklet available before Anzac Day,” Mr Lacey explained.
“The Narooma RSL Sub-branch has given the project extremely valuable support by applying for a Saluting Our Soldiers grant that will help fund the costs of printing this booklet.”
Peter Lacey also recently presented a series of classes on World War 1 in Narooma that resulted in an enthusiastic reception from participants (see Letter to Narooma News, November 28, 2012).
Two similar courses, one on Wednesday afternoons and the other on Tuesday nights, are being offered through the U3A Bermagui, commencing the first week of February.
Details are available at U3A Bermagui’s website, bermagui.u3anet.org.au