EVERY town hall, RSL clubrooms or school building across Australia, including in such tiny hamlets as Moyarra near Korumburra, has them.
Honour boards acknowledging the World War I and II service of the district’s volunteers.
But not every community treats the memory of their ex-service men and women with the respect they deserve and on that score, they could certainly take a leaf out of the award-winning book penned by Jillian Durance about the 28 names on the Moyarra ‘Roll of Honour’ entitled ‘Still Going Strong’.
Determined to see that they weren’t forgotten, Jillian set about researching the story of each of the men, a journey which took her to the site of their battles and final resting places in France.
In fact, the work on the book became the catalyst for the restoration of the Roll of Honour by master craftsman, the late Bruce Scott of Neerim South, and even the renovation of the old Moyarra State School building itself which is now a well-used and much-loved meeting place for the community.
“We wanted the roll of honour restored before we launched the book,” said Jillian last week.
Each of the men on the WWI roll is comprehensively covered in the book.
“Bill Hair was wounded in the war but came back to the area as a soldier settler,” said Jillian.
“His uncle John Nicolson (incorrectly spelled Nicholson on the roll) died of his wounds and is buried in France.”
John enlisted at Korumburra in 1916 at 43 years of age and it was noted on his medical examination papers at the time that his hair was already grey.
“Before he embarked on March 14, 1916 on the ‘Anchises’ he had visited his sister Annie in Moyarra to say goodbye. It was the last time his family at ‘Inverness’ ever saw him.
“John arrived at the Western front with the 5th Reinforcements of the 29th Battalion. In early March 1917 the 29th, including Fred and Leslie Dowel (both on the honour roll at Moyarra), was engaged in the battle for the French outpost villages. John was wounded near Bullcourt, sustaining severe wounds to the neck, leg, back and arm…”.
He died soon after and was buried in the cemetery which adjoined the military hospital at St Sever near Rouen.
“I’ve visited his grave there, in fact I visited all the graves of the men who died overseas,” Jillian said.
“It’s particularly sad when you see more than one family member has died,” said Moyarra resident, David Gow, who also stopped by at the school last week ahead of Anzac Day.
He was referring to the three Robertsons on the roll of honour; Howard who was wounded in the second wave into Gallipoli but returned to see action in the defence of Steele’s Post before contracting typhoid and being sent home.
Having been the first Moyarra man to enlist in WWI, he also tried to enlist in WWII.
Although he returned, his brothers Roy and Allan did not and were in fact killed 10 days apart.
A good footballer but prone to mischief, Roy came through the ordeal of battles at Ypres and Passchendaele, where he earned a Military Medal for bravery under fire, only to be killed at the Somme on April 3, 1918.
His older brother Allan, also listed with an ‘KA’ killed in action beside his name on the Moyarra roll, saw action at Gallipoli and France before being killed in a hail of bullets during a desperate battle protecting the French village of Verbequin (Vieux Berquin).
They say Allan, who was a natural soldier, would have received the VC for what he did that day if he had survived.
According to his commanding officer at the time, just three men, in a garrison of 25 came through with Allan distinguishing himself by using a captured German machine gun to hold back the German advance. Despite being wounded three times, he refused to leave his post at the front of the Battalion and “…died a hero’s death”.
These stories and more are behind the names of the men on the Moyarra honour roll but how much do we know about the ‘forgotten men’ on the honour boards across our other towns and districts?
Some local historians have done the painstaking work to enshrine their memory for future generations but it’s a challenge others should take up ahead of the centenary of Gallipoli next year.