In order to recreate Honour Boards we needed to have names. The Hansonville Board was easy as we had newspaper accounts that very helpfully published a list of names (that’s a researchers dream). However, I knew that these twenty-seven names were not even close to the number who went.
It wasn’t just about finding names – the bigger question was how were we going to determine whose name went on the Board? The rules are pretty loose and each district traditionally set up their own guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules and some men might be on more than one Board. Why were some put on and others left off? Sometimes it just didn’t make sense – especially if we look at it with all the resources and knowledge we have available to us today. At the time that the original Boards were made, the district and families may not have known what we can now find out from official records and sites. What was consistent though, is this. For someone to be named they must have:
• been born or attended school in the area;
• have a strong family connection to the district either at the time or through their family;
• strongly identify as belonging to that district;
• they needed to have been called up for duty after enlistment.
So began the hours upon hours of research, I believe that I did nothing else most nights and weekends for two years. I needed to find not only the names and the stories of the men, but their families. The local newspapers are a wonderful research tool and I spent hours trawling through the Wangaratta and Benalla papers, as well as many others – chasing, chasing, chasing. The National Archives and the Australian War Memorial provided official service records and war diaries.
I wanted to give the men a voice so that they did not just remain a faceless name on a piece of wood. I needed to know what they were doing before and after they went to war. I also wanted to let as many family members know what we were doing and give them the opportunity to be as involved as they could be.
The easy part was finding the men who still had a strong local connection to the district. Many still had family living locally – but many did not. Some names were unknown to anyone I spoke to, and it was a bit of a mystery as to why they were on the original Board. But there is something that every historian or researcher agrees on – give us a challenge and we’ll give it a go. I discovered that whilst you can’t really make your eyes bleed, they can be red rimmed, gritty and feel like they ARE bleeding from the hours spent pouring over books, papers, microfiche and film and of course the internet.
After almost two years of work a final roll call of fifty-six names has been settled on. I have learnt that:
• The first to enlist directly from the district was Bert Lloyd in September 1914 – although he didn’t cover himself in glory for all his desire to be part of the adventure;
• The first to enlist with a connection to the district, however was John Nolan. He joined up on the 18 August 1914, in New South Wales, two weeks before Bert Lloyd;
• Some of the local men were working in New Zealand and enlisted and fought with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF);
• By August 1915, forty-three men from the Greta District had signed up for ‘the great adventure’;
• The men who enlisted saw action in Egypt, Gallipoli, Palestine, The Somme, and the Western Front and fought in all the major battles and campaigns across the conflict;
• Many would distinguish themselves in battle – there was a Military Cross, two Military Medals, and numerous ‘mentioned in dispatches’;
• There were numerous brothers, brothers in law, cousins, nephews and uncles. There was one father and son;
• There were twelve sets of brothers;
• Two families – the O’Brien’s and the Delaney’s sent three brothers each;
• Fifteen men paid the supreme sacrifice;
• Of those fifty-six names there is still one man who remains a mystery. He is named on the Hansonville list –and I have him attending school there – but his war record remains elusive to me;
• I have a family contact for almost all of the families, some are proving to be just a bit hard to find.
I have spent hours talking with family descendants and members, I have been humbled by their support and generosity. I have been reduced to tears when holding precious mementoes and photos – especially from those who did not return. In some cases I really did cry after reading reports and letters.
I have read letters home that in one sentence talk about being in the trenches, and then in the next ask if the lambs in the top paddock have been drenched. One local soldier writes of his two horses and how he hopes he can bring them home; he talks of his favourite, the mare, who has been shot three times and survived the gas attacks. We know today, that he never got to bring them home, as none of the others did either.
A soldier writes of spending Christmas on Lemnos Island and describes the farming practices. Almost as an aside he mentions that he had a ‘bit of an injury’ to his leg. We now know that he would have been injured and evacuated just before the end of the Gallipoli Campaign. That soldier was Trooper Jack McMonigle.
Tom McCarthy was a local man who wrote home almost weekly, each letter full of news and hope that ‘it would be all over soon’. He made light of the big campaigns and remained positive throughout – it was hard to read through his letters knowing that he would die from wounds a few weeks before the Armistice. His mother would receive a picture of his grave and the ‘dead man’s penny, only to put them and be shown to us almost a hundred years later.
But without a doubt the hardest thing to read were the letters from mothers and sweethearts – one young lady starts out quite angry that she has not heard from her friend ‘Tom’; she accuses the army of not sending him her mail. As time goes by her letters turn to polite queries as she learns that he is missing, presumed dead, then back to arguing that ‘this can’t be true’, and later pleading for his property, just something to remember him by’. Her ‘Tom’ was Tom Bryan, born at Greta and killed in action at Gallipoli on June 24, just 6 weeks after leaving Australia. His brother Edward would die from Malaria in Egypt in 1918. His mother is said to have ‘died from a broken heart’ a few months later.
Robert Whitehead was killed along with his brother Walter, and two others from Greta, John Cromwell Hurley, and Charles Winnell, on the same day, 3 May 1917, at the second battle of Bullecourt. Robert was engaged at the time and the family of his fiancé still have the diamond engagement ring he gave her. None of the four were ever found.
My greatest admiration, though, goes to the men who did return, they picked up their lives in whatever way they could and ‘got on with it’. We can only imagine what they had seen and experienced – most would never talk about it, or if they did it was not in any great detail.
The most rewarding part of this has been talking to families about the project and their relative– in some cases they didn’t know of their connection to Greta. Connecting families with others and watching them find long forgotten links has been wonderful, yet humbling, – for me it, it goes to the heart of what this project is all about. Every family has embraced the project and have been extraordinarily generous and patient with their time, their memories, and their willingness to share photos and memorabilia. They embraced me and I feel a debt to them and their ANZAC.
Those men that had no family have become mine – they will never be forgotten either. They have now become part of the Greta-Hansonville family again. Getting to know these men and their families has had what I know will be a lasting effect on me. I am not a war historian or military expert – far from it. I do however have a greater understanding and knowledge of the individual battles and campaigns than I did before. What was once just an interest has now become part of my life and I feel that I know all of those men intimately – and that they trust me to tell their story. It has cemented my belief that there are no ‘winners’ in war. It made me more determined to both see this project through, and to honour not only the men, but their families and the district who supported them.
In June next year, 2016, I will travel to the Western Front. I need to see and walk where the men once stood.. I need to place a poppy and flag on the graves of those who never came home and say ‘you’ve not been forgotten’.
These men must not remain names on a piece of wood – we must never forget them. We must keep their memory alive.
This is the speech given at the unveiling of the Greta Hansonville Honour Board by Noeleen Lloyd.
The Gathering Place
Key note address by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Ash Power
18 October 2015
There are a number of things that stand out for me from the great war. Firstly is the scale of the contribution and sacrifice made by Australia, then a very young country, and i don’t want to bore you with statistics but the numbers are compelling.
In 1914, Australia had a population of about 4.9 million, of this number 416,809 enlisted which was 38.7% of the male population aged between 18 and 44. In 1914, over 50,000 enlisted, and in 1915 and 1916 when the horrors of the war had become evident, another 166,000 and then 124,000 joined the 1st Australian Imperial Force – the 1st AIF. In all, 112,399 Victorian’s enlisted which was 27% of the 1st AIF and in north-east Victoria more than 3,500 joined between 1914 and 1918, which was about 41.3% of the male population aged between 18 and 44.
It was an exciting time, an adventure, fighting for King and empire, and they joined for a variety of reasons with over half going into the infantry.In shires such as Yackandandah and Oxley the proportion that joined and had never married was 95%, it was likely to be similar here and elsewhere. They were young, more than 60% were under the age of 25. Around 60 enlisted from Greta, Greta West, Hansonville and Greta South. 84% of this regions volunteers did so before September 1916, it is not surprising that it fell away thereafter.
As we know 61,859 Australians were killed in action, which averaged a bit more than 38 deaths for the each of the 1,560 days of the war. About 19,000 were Victorian’s. More than 156,000 were wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
If a city, borough or village existed in Australia at the outbreak of the war, then someone from that district would have joined, and highly likely suffered. Many rural families were left without menfolk to tend the farm, with the women left at home to look after the children, and eke out a living all the while fretting for those that had left and dreading the worst. Suffering didn’t only occur on the front line although there it was appalling.
The Gallipoli campaign in 1915 cost over 26 thousand Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths. The attack at Fromelle on 19 and 20 July, 1916 was the début of the 1st AIF on the western front and is described as \’the worst 24 hours in Australia\’s entire history.\’ Of 7,080 British Expeditionary Force casualties, 5,533 were incurred by the Australian 5th Division.
23,000 casualties were suffered by the Australian Imperial Force between 23 July and 4 September, 1916, in and around Pozieres. More than 6,700 of them were killed in action or died of wounds. During the stunning success in capturing Villers Brettoneux by two Australian brigades on the evening of the 24th of April, 1918, 1,200 Australians died. A British General described the battle as \’perhaps the greatest individual feat in the war.\’
What happened at Galipoli and on the Western Front broke the hearts of thousands of Australian families and their young nation. Beyond the suffering we can only wonder, but for the war what all of the young men who were casualties there could, or would, have achieved.
The second thing that strikes me is how quickly the world decended into war and why we got involved. Wars have raged in Europe through millenia, and before the outbreak of the Great War there were, once again, rumblings of war with politicians scrambling for a solution whilst military men made preparations. All that was required was a spark to ignite the fire and with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Bosnia in late June, 1914, things unravelled quickly.
A month later on 28 July, 1914 Austria-Hungary, backed by Germany declared war on Serbia. Two days later Russia mobilised. Germany then declared war on Russia on the 1st August, France on 3rd August and invaded neutral Belgium on the 4th August.
Australia had started preparations for war by this stage and when Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August, joining France and Russia, Australia entered the war, pledging 20,000 troops and to defend Britain to \’our last man and our last shilling.\’ As we know, thousands joined.
The final point for me is that despite the financial and physical cost of the war, the tragedy that unfolded and the horror that was played out in the trenches, lasting peace was not the outcome of our victory in World War One. The treaty of Versailles, signed exactly five years to the day after Archduke Ferdinand was killed, ended the state of war between Germany and the allied powers, however, Germany was neither pacified or conciliated, nor was it permanently weakened. A little more than 20 years later we were at it again. It should reinforce to all of us that the worlds problems cannot be solved by thousands of acts of individual bravery on a battlefield, or using military force alone.
Which brings us to today. If the centenary of ANZAC is the catalyst to focus on the sacrifices of our forbears, to re-educate ourselves, and to ensure that younger Australians understand what that magnificent generation of the First World War did for our great country, then that is fantastic. Community projects all around the country such as that we are unveiling today, are the result of not only greater awareness and a bit of government funding, but the outcome of countless research hours and other supporting efforts by volunteers, many of whom have a direct link to our World War One veterans, but not necessarily, as well as a genuine interest from all of us to get a better understanding of that period, and to recognise in an appropriate way those who served.
I congratulate all of you involved with the Greta Heritage Group and thank you for what you have done. In particular I acknowledge the initial three stalwarts, Noeleen Lloyd and Joan and Ken Ellis, with their kitchen table discussions, successful grant applications, and initial vision which we see realised here, at the gathering place, today. I acknowledge the family members of some of the 56 names inscribed on this magnificent honour board, you should be very proud of the role your family has played in the history of our wonderful country. Fortunately most returned, but as you will see, 15 from this region paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Lastly, I want to thank all of you for attending today, and the organising committee for extending me the invitation to participate. We should all remember that none who have served including those first ANZACs, or continue to serve have done so in vain, their sacrifice and suffering is remembered, their service is acknowledged, and, as a nation we are eternally grateful … Lest we forget.
Victoria 1914 – 1918
Wednesday 28, March 1917 (page 3)
HANSONVILLE: The unveiling of the Honor Roll of the local State School promises to be a great success. Messrs P. J. Moloney and J. Bowser, Federal and State representatives, have notified the School Committee of their acceptance of invitations to be present, as well as the three Councilors of the Western Riding, viz., Crs. A. H. Smith, J. Dinning and G. Smith. A large attendance of the general public is hoped for, it being the occasion of the annual picnic.
Victoria 1914 – 1918
Saturday 7, April 1917 (page 3)
PICNIC AT HANSONVILLE: The annual picnic in connection with Hansonville State School was held on Monday afternoon in fine weather. The attendance was very large and a most enjoyable afternoon was spent, the pleasure of the children receiving special attention. Ladies provided generous hampers, and all present were hospitably treated. The picnic was promoted by the following committee: – Messrs H. Tanner (president) O. G. Legg (secretary), E. Martin, H. Jeffrey, J. Prendergast, James O\’Connell and Mr. H. Tanner. Mr. F. G. Baker, the painstaking head teacher of the school, rendered very valuable help, which largely contributed to the success of the picnic. The financial result was most gratifying to the promoters, and the proceeds will probably he devoted to the State School Patriotic Fund.
During the afternoon the ceremony of unveiling the memorial tablet erected in the State School to commemorate the memory of soldiers educated at Hansonville, and enlisted from the district was performed. Mr. O. G. Legg presided, and Mr. T. Graham, B.L., in formally unveiling the tablet, referred to the noble sacrifice the young men whose names appeared on the tablet had made for their country\’s sake. Crs. A. H. Smith and J. Dinning also spoke, special reference being made to those who had fallen and also to the gallant deeds of many of the young men.
Mr. A. R. Johnstone, of Moyhu, displayed much artistic taste in the preparation of the tablet, which contained the following names: – Capt. John Legg, Lieut. Austin Mahony, Lieut. W. Whitehead, Sgt. Loftus Bauchop, Sgt. Walter Tanner, Cpls. William O\’Brien, Middleton Whitehead, Pte. G. Goodland (killed in action), Pte. Thomas Coulter (killed in action), Pte. John Jeffrey (killed in action), Pte. Louis Legg, Michael O\’Brien, M. Hogan, James Tanner, Ernest Quinn, George Dickson, Robt. Dickson, John Nolan, W. Mahony, John Hogan, Herbert Tanner, John Murray, Edward O\’Brien, Patrick O’Malley, William Delaney, Stanley McDonald, Frank E. Corker. Results of athletic events:
Open Sheffield: F. Share 1, T. Nolan 2.
Stepping Distance: W. Rees 1, F. and S. Prendergast (tie) 2.
Throwing at Wicket: J. O\’Brien 1, F. Baker 2.
Guessing Height of Pole: G. Wallace I.
– 2 to 14 years: G. Rees 1, L. Jeffrey 2, J. O\’Brien 3.
– 9 to 12 years: W. Flynn 1, W. Prendergast 2, G. Legg 3.
– 6 to 9 years: F. Rees I, T. Waugh 2, H. Wallace 3.
– under 6 years: D. Morley 1, J. Bourke 2, J. Corker 3.
– under 16 years: W. Flynn 1, J. O\’Brien 2, H. Johnson 3.
– under 14 years: L. Nolan 1, F. Rees 2, W. Prendergast 3.
Boot Race: J. O\’Brien 1, G. Rees 2, G. Legg 3.
Siamese Race: G. Rees and W. Lloyd 1, W. Prendergast and J. O\’Brien 2.
– 12 to 14 years: S. Martin 1, I. Martin 2, S. Prendergast 3.
– 9 to 12 years: F. Mahony 1, M. Regan 1, E. Jeffrey 3.
– 6 to 9 years: E. Mahony 1, B. Martin 2, L. Jeffrey 3.
– under 6 years: E. Legg I, J. Quinn 2.
– under I6 years: A. Dawes 1, V. Lloyd 2, B. Tanner 3.
– under 14 years, E. Johnson I, D. Lloyd 2, W. Broadbent 3.
Skipping: V. Tanner. 1, A. Dawe 2.
In the evening a dance, which was well patronised, was held at the public hall. Messrs T. O\’Brien (violin), and M. Prendergast (piano) provided music free. Mr. John Prendergast was M.C., and the ladies provided supper. The arrangements for the dance were made by the following sub-committee: -Messers John, Michael, T. and James Prendergast, G. Wallace and John O\’Brien.
Harvard/Australian citation:1917 \’PICNIC AT HANSONVILLE.’ Wangaratta Chronicle (Vic.: 1914 – 1918), 7 April, p. 3 Edition: Mornings, viewed 2 October, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92126492