100 years af­ter the guns fell silent, th­ese are the sto­ries of their great-great-grand­fa­thers


ONE hun­dred years af­ter the last guns fell silent on the Western Front, all of the 416,809 Aus­tralian Dig­gers who bore wit­ness to the bloody car­nage are gone.

More than 62,000 — in­clud­ing 6255 West Aus­tralians — did not sur­vive their ser­vice on the bat­tle­fields of Europe.

Far more spent the re­main­der of their lives try­ing to for­get. Sadly, some are now for­got­ten them­selves.

But many more never will be, their mem­o­ries and lega­cies car­ried for­ward by a new gen­er­a­tion of young West Aus­tralians who will fall silent at 11am to­day to re­flect on the self­less­ness and sac­ri­fice of their An­zac an­ces­tors.

RSLWA Pres­i­dent Peter Aspinall said the free­doms and stan­dard-of-liv­ing en­joyed in Aus­tralia to­day came at the ex­pense of sol­diers, past and present, who signed up to pro­tect their coun­try.

“To pay that price men, and women en­gage in the ob­scen­ity of war,” Mr Aspinall said. “The sig­nif­i­cance of this is that they vol­un­teered. . In do­ing so the vast ma­jor­ity would have ac­knowl­edged that there was the pos­si­bil­ity they might give their lives.”

To­day, like every Re­mem­brance and An­zac Day, six-year-old Har­ley Burns will rise be­fore dawn. Along with his dad, Aaron, he will don a replica of the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force uni­form worn by his thrice great-un­cle Her­bert Ge­orge Wagg and spend the day at Kings Park greet­ing the more than 1000 peo­ple ex­pected to at­tend the State’s big­gest ser­vice.

“One day I want to join the army like my un­cle Herb,” Har­ley said. “He was in World War I and fought at Gal­lipoli and the Western Front.”

“Un­cle Herb” sur­vived both and re­tuned to Aus­tralia, al­though the bur­den of nearly four years of duty took their toll and he spent much of the re­main­der of his life a recluse, shy­ing away even from his own fam­ily.

James Theophilus Lav­ery was an­other Dig­ger ir­repara­bly dam­aged by his ser­vice, his lungs never the same af­ter a poi­son gas at­tack dur­ing his time on the Western Front. Lav­ery died aged just 60 in 1952, more than 70 years be­fore the birth of his great-great-grand­daugh­ter Sophia Hin­der.

Now five, Sophia loves singing, danc­ing and play­ing with her Bar­bies. Her par­ents Karyn (army and then air force) and Chris Hin­der (navy) have served across all three branches of the Aus­tralian mil­i­tary be­tween them and are de­ter­mined to pass on an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of An­zac and Re­mem­brance Day to their daugh­ter.

Twins Eleanor and Ju­lia Han­ra­han are among the thou­sands of West Aus­tralians de­scended from a fam­ily tree with roots stained by blood shed dur­ing WWI. Aspir­ing vet­eri­nar­ian Eleanor will never for­get vis­it­ing the war ceme­ter­ies of France dur­ing an ex­change trip to the coun­try where her thrice great-un­cles Ce­cil and Hu­bert Hitch­cock are buried.

Alexan­der Laughton was a year younger than the Han­ra­han twins when he en­listed and sur­vived be­ing shot in the hand and gassed in the trenches of the Western Front to re­turn to Perth,

mar­ry­ing Norna Ed­wards in 1922.

Ninety-three years later his three-year-old great-great grand­daugh­ter Dakota Tamepo Kane is pre­par­ing for pre-kindy, in be­tween baby acro and danc­ing.

Ge­orge Fuller was an­other port city ca­su­alty, the 20-year-old butcher killed at Brood­seinde in Bel­gium ex­actly a year af­ter en­list­ing. He is the great-great-un­cle of Emily and Char­lotte Briggs.

Their thrice great-grand­fa­ther Bartholomew Stubbs also died in Bel­gium, killed by a sniper in Flan­ders af­ter giv­ing up a ca­reer as Su­bi­aco MLA and en­list­ing at the age of 43.

“It is scary to think about what it would have been like be­cause war is just so scary. I would never do it. It is hard to com­pre­hend their sac­ri­fice, but I ap­pre­ci­ate it so much,” Char­lotte said.

RSLWA re­cep­tion­ist Jemma Hol­land is re­minded of her great-great-grand­fa­ther James Hol­land every time she looks up from her desk at work — his por­trait adorns the op­po­site wall.

“I’d worked at RSLWA about four months when the photo was put up,” Jemma said. “We have a book at home called The Lost Dig­gers and he is on the front cover, so I recog­nised him straight away.”

At just four and three years old, Jack and So­phie Tr­us­cott are just ap­proach­ing the age where they can fully grasp the courage of their great-grea­tun­cle Leopold Dou­glas Tigell.

Tigell had his foot crushed but re­turned to the Western Front af­ter he re­cov­ered — only to be gassed in the trenches. Re­mark­ably, he sur­vived and re­turned to Aus­tralia to live a largely nor­mal life.

Si­b­lings Finn and Noah O’Driscoll can trace their lin­eage back to Kir­rup tim­ber mill work­ers and broth­ers Ge­orge and Fred­er­ick God­dard. Both men were on the Western Front to hear the guns fall silent at 11am on November 11, 1918. A cen­tury later, Finn and Noah will have their rel­a­tives front of mind when the Last Post her­alds a minute of si­lence at the Bassendean ser­vice.

To­day th­ese young peo­ple will re­mem­ber the 100th an­niver­sary of Ar­mistice Day. Pic­ture: Richard Hatherly

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