Dig­gers op­pose shrine’s burial

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - By IAN McPHEDRAN

SOL­DIERS serv­ing in Afghanistan are fu­ri­ous that the top brass want to de­stroy a me­mo­rial wall at the main base in Oruz­gan Prov­ince that car­ries the names of 40 Aus­tralians killed dur­ing our long­est war.

Ac­cord­ing to the plan, the names of the dead will be painted over and the three large re­in­forced con­crete T-wall pan­els they are writ­ten on bro­ken down and buried on site.

Many Dig­gers, the fam­i­lies of those sol­diers killed and the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial all want the wall re­moved and taken back to Aus­tralia to be dis­played at the na­tional me­mo­rial in Can­berra.

Ter­ri­to­rian Ray Palmer, whose son Com­mando Pri­vate Scott Palmer was killed in a he­li­copter crash in Afghanistan in 2010, said he would be up­set and an­gry if the wall was not brought back or taken to another of the coali­tion coun­tries.

‘‘I don’t care where it goes, I just don’t want it buried,’’ Mr Palmer said.

‘‘If they can bring ev­ery­thing else (back) . . . surely this can’t be dif­fi­cult.’’

Mr Palmer said he was dis­ap­pointed he had not been asked his thoughts on the de­ci­sion to bury the wall and he was ‘‘ damn sure there are a lot of fam­i­lies out there that wouldn’t want this to hap­pen’’.

The me­mo­rial fea­tures 114 names of all coali­tion troops ( Aus­tralian, Amer­i­can, Dutch and French) based at Camp Hol­land in Oruz­gan Prov­ince who have died dur­ing the war.

Com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the force ex­trac­tion unit, Lieu­tenant Colonel Paul Wright of Can­berra, said he un­der­stood the sig­nif­i­cance of the wall to sol­diers and the fam­i­lies of the fallen.

How­ever, with the dead from four na­tions in­cluded it was not a sim­ple mat­ter and it would have to be cut into pieces to pre­serve the Aus­tralian names.

‘‘That was not deemed an ap­pro­pri­ate way to treat the wall,’’ he said.

The plan to paint out the names, break it up and bury it has been ap­proved by all four na­tions, but Colonel Wright ad­mit­ted that no one had asked the ques­tion about repa­tri­at­ing the en­tire wall to Aus­tralia.

The key fac­tor in the de­ci­sion to de­stroy it was to pre­vent names from fall­ing into the enemy hands and be­ing used as pro­pa­ganda.

Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial di­rec­tor Bren­dan Nel­son said he would like to see the me­mo­rial dis­played at the mu­seum.

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