Re­mem­ber­ing Dig­ger John

Fam­ily trav­els to France to hon­our their fallen hero

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE - Erica Mur­ree erica.mur­ree@cnbtimes.com.au

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.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

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.

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