Family travels to Belgium to honour Charles Eacott
Four great nieces and nephews of a Longwarry solider killed on the Western Front in Europe in World War 1 but whose grave remained unknown until last year recently made an emotional trip for the rededication of his grave at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery in Belgium.
Charles Arthur Eacott was killed in battle on September 20, 1917, less than 12 hours after joining the front line for the first time.
He was one of five Eacott cousins of two families from the Longwarry area that enlisted, one of his cousins Francis also killed during fighting in 1917.
Grand nieces Jennifer Murnane (nee Eacott) and Sandra Johnston (nee Watson) and grand nephews Bill and Allan Eacott and their partners travelled firstly to England, retracing where Charles was stationed and trained before his embarkation for Europe.
They then went to Belgium and to Black Watch Corner where he was killed, the Menin Gate Memorial that records his name and to the Birss Cross Roads Cemetery where 98 years after he died he is now buried beneath a marked gravestone.
He died alongside two comrades, one of them Henry Huntsman who came from Loch whose grave also previously remained unknown.
The dedicated work over several years of Fallen Digger organisation’s Andrew Pittway and Dennis Frank identified the remains of Privates Eacott and Huntsman.
The rededication ceremony on the 98th anniversary of their deaths, and that of the third member of the group Pte Neilson, whose grave remained identified, was a moving occasion.
It was also given high recognition by the Australian Government with those attending and officiating including the Australian Ambassador to Belgium Mark Higgie, the senior Australian Defence Force Officer in Europe Rear Admiral Allan Du Toit, the Australian Defence Attache to Belgium Commander Emma Gaudry, the premier secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Jennifer Stephenson and representatives from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Sandra Johnston recalls the early morning before the ceremony at the cemetery when the family party re-enacted their great uncle’s journey from the night before and through the morning of his death and the sense of “feeling” and “presence” that was with them all.
“There was a foggy, misty eerie energy surrounding us and a couple of unusual cloud formations that lasted only seconds,” she said.
Four great nephews and nieces of Private Charles Eacott, killed on the Western Front in Belgium in 1917, but whose grave was unknown until last year, attended the recent naming and rededication of his grave at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery in Belgium. Standing at the graveside after the formal ceremony are, from left, Bill and Allan Eacott, Sandra Johnston (nee Watson) and Jennifer Murnane (nee Eacott).