THE KIDS WHO NEVER FORGET
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