Stories of Eden’s lost men

THE stories of 89 men from the Far South Coast who died “serving King and Country” during World War 1 are chronicled in a free booklet that was released this week.

Local WW1 historian Peter Lacey from Quaama has spent the past two years identifying more than 200 soldiers from the NSW south coast who were killed during WW1 and then compiling mini-biographies of each of them.

His findings are outlined in a three-volume series of booklets titled We Will Remember Them.

“The final volume, presenting the biographies of men from the Candelo to Eden areas, has just been printed and will be officially launched next week.

 ‘The stories of individual Australians who served in World War 1 are absolutely fascinating, and those included in volume three of We Will Remember Them are no exception,” Mr Lacey told the BDN.

 “There are examples of men who enlisted early in 1914, served at Gallipoli and then in other major battles in France and Belgium, only to be killed late in the war, through to one case of a local who enlisted, contracted measles and was to die within three weeks of joining the army. 

“We have heroes who were decorated for bravery, and also have numerous examples of local boys who ran afoul of the authorities by going absent-without-leave, being drunk and disorderly, or who received punishment for ignoring trivial rules such as ‘no smoking between decks’ when aboard the ship transporting them from Australia to the war.”

Mr Lacey said many of the “behind the scenes” family stories are just as interesting.

“There is one hard-to-believe story of a family being repeatedly told their son was ‘with his unit’ when he clearly had been killed 10 months earlier, and another of a soldier who had deserted his wife and kids, changed his name, moved to the south coast before enlisting and was only correctly identified when he was killed and his ex-wife was named as the beneficiary in his will,” Mr Lacey said.

“This volume is particularly interesting because it identifies at least one local who was killed in every major battle in which Australians participated.  

“This provides a relevant ‘local perspective’ to the entire war,” he said.

“And the same thing applies to topics such as the Australian recruiting efforts, because several locals included in this booklet joined the famous Men from Snowy River recruiting march (from Delegate to Goulburn) and the Waratahs recruiting march (from Nowra to Sydney). 

“And another local, a Methodist clergyman from Candelo, joined the Wallabies recruiting march (from Walgett to Newcastle) only to be killed by a lightning strike when he arrived at the West Maitland Training Camp.”

All three volumes of We Will Remember Them are free.  

Meanwhile, Mr Lacey’s next task is to lead an eight-week, Wednesday morning course on World War 1 and the South Coast at the Bega Pioneers’ Museum, starting next week.

To enrol, or to obtain more information, call 6493 8529. 

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