FALLEN HE­ROES

Carv­ings to hon­our Val­ley broth­ers

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES KITTO

A DER­WENT Val­ley woman is on a mis­sion of com­mem­o­ra­tion af­ter find­ing out two rel­a­tives who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice dur­ing World War I had trees planted in their hon­our.

Jackie Slyp dis­cov­ered two trees in Back River Rd at Ma­gra were planted in hon­our of the fallen broth­ers, and says she’s plan­ning to have the trees trans­formed into carv­ings to com­mem­o­rate the fallen Dig­gers.

Wil­liam Henry Har­ris was killed in ac­tion on Fe­bru­ary 17, 1918, aged 26, near Ypres in Bel­gium.

His younger brother Harold Nor­man Har­ris died in a prison camp on Septem­ber 9 of the same year, at just 19 years of age.

The Har­ris broth­ers, who grew up in New Nor­folk, were among the 40th Bat­tal­ion, 6th Re­in­force­ments that left Vic­to­ria on board HMAT A67 Orsova on De­cem­ber 6, 1917.

Ms Slyp, whose great grand­fa­ther was a step­brother of the fallen pair, said while study­ing a his­tory de­gree at the Uni­ver­sity of Tas­ma­nia she learned two trees were planted in 1920 at the old Ma­gra school site in mem­ory of the men.

Ms Slyp said the 98-yearold trees had never been for­mally sign­posted or ac­knowl­edged as com­mem­o­ra­tive.

She said the trees were now in poor con­di­tion and had to be trimmed reg­u­larly to re­duce dam­age to the above pow­er­lines.

Af­ter seek­ing Com­mon­wealth and State Govern­ment fund­ing, along with fi­nan­cial sup­port from Norske Skog and CWA Tas­ma­nia, Ms Slyp has ap­plied to the Der­went Val­ley Coun­cil to have the trees trimmed to a base height which would al­low wooden carv­ings to sit on top of the trunks.

“This project will in­volve the trees to be trimmed to a suit­able height and then the in­stal­la­tion of two chain­saw carv­ings would be fit­ted that re­spect­fully and ap­pro­pri­ately ac­knowl­edge the supreme sac­ri­fice made by th­ese young men,” she said. “I’ve ap­proached Ed­die Free­man for the chain­saw carv­ing who does a supreme job and I feel con­fi­dent that he would cre­ate a very re­spect­ful me­mo­rial that would also be­come some­thing that peo­ple would want to come and see.”

Mr Free­man carved World War I me­mo­rial fig­ures from trees at Legerwood in the state’s North-East.

Ms Slyp said the project, which was await­ing Der­went Val­ley Coun­cil ap­proval, would serve as a com­mem­o­ra­tive com­mu­nity land­mark for the fallen rothers.

“I think it could ac­tu­ally be­come quite an at­trac­tion,” she said

“Part of what we’re look­ing to do is im­ple­ment an in­ter­pre­ta­tion panel at the site, where peo­ple can come, have a look and read about their his­tory.

“Th­ese two young men, and oth­ers from the same era, who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice, gave up their op­por­tu­nity to marry, have chil­dren, and re­turn home — so I think from that point of view it’s re­ally im­por­tant to pay trib­ute to that.”

Ms Slyp is hope­ful the com­mem­o­ra­tion for the fallen dig­gers can be erected this year to mark 100 years since the con­clu­sion of WWI.

Main pic­ture: ROGER LOVELL

FALLEN HE­ROES: Jackie Slyp holds pho­tos of World War I soldiers Harold and Wil­liam Har­ris in front of the trees that were planted in their mem­ory; be­low, broth­ers Wil­liam, left, and Harold.

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