A TOUCHING, detailed historical exhibition at Tilba on ANZAC Day displayed the accomplishments of surely two of the most interesting characters of World War I.
Bert Latimer had both his legs blown off on the Western Front but who returned to continue his larrikin ways on the farm and eventually start a bus company in northern NSW.
And then there is Sister Pearl Corkhill MM who served with amazing grace and dignity under fire being awarded a Military Medal.
The display surely honoured their legacy with two panels running the length of the hall, period-appropriate music and special mementoes from the war, including a book of special messages sent to the boys on the front.
A totally unrelated but equally touching story emerged on the day involving Tilba Tilba resident Chris Scroggy, colourful operator of the Quarterdeck restaurant in Narooma.
Chris got a phone call at his waterfront restaurant on Thursday, the day before ANZAC Day, from the Australian War Memorial to inform him that his great uncle William Connelly had been positively identified as one of the Australian soldiers in recently discovered mass grave at Fromelles, France.
From a mining family in Cobar, Private Connelly enlisted at age 16 along with his father apparently keen to go and fight for the country.
“I can’t image what life would have been like for both of them to sign up and go – life was really hard in Cobar,” Chris said.
Tragically, only one year later in 1915 Private Connelly still a boy was killed in the trenches with the family story being that he was only a few hundred yards away from his father, who himself survived the war.
But his remains were never found until now. They will be reburied in France with a proper headstone and some buttons found with William will be returned to the family, who intends to place them with relatives buried back in NSW.
Back to the exhibition at Tilba, which was a special occasion for the family of Bert Latimer, and three generations of his descendents returned to the village for the display.
Among them were sisters Yvonne Latimer and Norma Waters nee Latimer, now both of Kiama up the coast.
In a serendipitous revelation, the Latimer family farm initially known as Glenrock is the property purchased by the producers of the River Cottage Australia for the show currently airing on The Lifestyle Channel on Foxtel.
Yvonne and Norma and the other family members are obviously great fans of the show and got to meet River Cottage host Paul West who also attended the ceremony along with his dog Digger.
They explained they grew up on the property and their father Norman, brother of Bert, was a dairy farmer with their dairy shed now featuring in the show.
The fond memories of their uncle Bert who was a real joker and by all appearances brushed off the loss of both his legs like it was nothing.
He was known to leapfrog off his horse and loved teasing the children telling them to kick his wooden shins.
“We always came off second best,” they laughed. “He also loved his fishing and would also joke around with crabs in the bottom of the boat knowing they couldn’t bite his legs.”
His granddaughter Kaye Sackett of the Gold Coast compiled extensive information about his life and service and who said the assembling the material had been a labour of love.
Other relatives attending were his great grandson Ben Hancock of Wagga Wagga, granddaughter Vicki Hancock of Tathra, Ken Percy –a grandson of one of Bert’s brothers – from Newcastle and one of Bert’s distant cousins and still a local Bryson Latimer.
The other World War I hero honoured in the display was Sister Pearl Corkhill MM.
Sister Corkhill nursed both in Cairo and on the Western Front and was dearly loved by those in Tilba who knew her.
She was awarded a Military Medal for calmness under fire when her Casualty Clearing Station was bombed.
An invaluable and most exciting exhibit in the display was an autograph album, which belonged to the nursing sister with touching messages to the soldiers on the front.
The original, containing both autographs and pressed flowers, was on display protected by a glass case.
All who passed through on ANZAC Day were very impressed with the innovative display on Bert and Sister Corkhill, with comments that it should have been on display for more than just one day.
One of the organisers of the display and main speaker of the Tilba ceremony the Reverend David Oliphant told the crowd that plans were to have an even bigger display in the Big Hall on the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.
The rest of the Tilba ANZAC Day went on with usual fanfare and music.
As his tradition, lone piper Peter McIntosh of Narooma led the march that featured the students and principal John Carter from Central Tilba Area School, while Reverend Oliphant also played and sang a Mike Whittle song – The Last Man from Dunolly.
Also marching was Tilba resident Phill Stokes, who explained this was his first time marching and he was doing so in honour of his grandfather who served in the 19th Infantry Battalion.
He was in the second wave that landed at Gallipoli and who then went to serve in France taking shrapnel and being sent home.
Phill said his mother called the night before to make sure he had polished his grandfather’s medals for the march.
The Tilba ANZAC Day ceremony was also the event chosen to attend by Eurobodalla Shire Council general manager Dr Catherine Dale and her husband.