Remembering Digger John
Family travels to France to honour their fallen hero
IT’S been three years in the making for three generations of the Marshall family, as they head to France to commemorate the anniversary of a First World War digger.
Two brothers, John and Jim, went off to war and only Jim came home to the farm.
They were the sons of John and Jane Marshall who settled in the Dundarrah, Coalstoun Lakes in 1910.
Private John Marshall was born in Cuddes, Scotland.
He enlisted from Liverpool, New South Wales in the first battalion.
He was injured while preparing lunch at Railway Embankment at Bullecourt in northern France.
A shell fragment caught him, wounding him badly.
He died a few days later on May 7, 1917 aged 30 years and was buried at the military cemetery at Grevilliers in France.
Great nephew Steve Marshall of Coalstoun Lakes said about three years ago after a round of bowls over a cuppa and a biscuit, the idea to visit Digger John came to him.
“I thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice to go see Digger John on the 100th anniversary of his death?’,” he said.
“The younger ones thought it was a great idea and immediately started up a Facebook page.”
Making the pilgrimage with Steve and wife Sue is brother Les and wife Anne, along with sisters Denise and Lillian and extended family members.
Among the group is Steve and Sue’s son Luke and his wife Katherine, who have already visited the grave site.
Katherine said while they were on a belated honeymoon, they took a special trip to the military cemetery, making Luke the first decendant to visit the grave.
“It was very moving, quite sombre in fact,” she said.
“I feel it is important for Steve to take this journey.”
The contingent will leave Brisbane on April 28 with a stopover in Dubai before flying into Brussels.
They will be hosted by families from Gayndah’s sister city Zonhoven in Belguim.
Sue Marshall said she will reunite with Ron Kramer, who stayed with her family as a young man when backpacking around Australia.
“He has taken a week off work and with Marie Claire Holzman and husband Roger will take the group to the military cemetery at Grevilliers,” she said.
The group will be away five weeks and during that time intend to spend time in Scotland looking up where the family came from.
Steve Marshall said he was excited about the trip.
“Mostly just how many of the family have come on board,” he said.
“It will be a special moment sharing it with them.
“It will be a trip of a lifetime.”
Mr Marshall said everyone had made the effort and he hoped Digger John appreciated it.
“I wanted to take a bit of red rock to make him feel a bit more at home,” he said.
“No doubt I wouldn’t get it through customs.
“At least the cemetery is surrounded by farmland.”
SOMBRE MOMENT: Katherine Marshall, who will make the trip to France for the second time, walks through the military cemetery at Grevilliers where Private John Marshall who died on May 7, 1917 is buried.