Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Balmain and the ANZAC Spirit

In Loyalty Square there stands a sandstone monument called the Balmain War Memorial. It is one of Australia’s earliest war memorials, erected on 23rd April 1916, before the end of the First World War and while the battle at Gallipoli was still raging.

It is unknown why the war memorial was erected so early and why Balmain was chosen at a suitable place to commemorate the fallen. One theory is that the memorial initially commemorated those that gave their lives during the early Dardanelle/Gallipoli campaign. It is thought that nearly all the 5000 male residents eligible to enlist in World War One, did so. It's well documented that the local Balmain Rugby Union club could no longer compete in competition due to nearly all their members going off to fight in The Great War. The absence of so many male workers would have also affected Balmain's local industry.

38 local men from Balmain perished during the Gallipoli campaign and each name is etched on the monument. Two recipients of the Victoria Cross during the First World War are named on the monument, though neither were locally born.

Lance Corporal JWA Jackson, a veteran of Gallipoli, is still the youngest VC recipient and the first to receive it for his service at the Western Front. In the prelude to the Battle of the Somme in France, Jackson and his scouting party were under heavy fire when he captured an enemy soldier and returned him to the line; he then went back twice into no-mans land and rescued the remainder of his party, having his right arm blown off by a shell in the process.

Private Currey rushed and captured two German machine gun posts, killing all the crew in Peronne, France. He then volunteered to rescue a stranded force on the front line: "At 3 am when efforts to reach (a Lt Waite in an advanced position) having failed, Private Currey volunteered to make his third attempt and going out far into the disputed front he stood up and called with all his lung power. "Waitsy! Get in." The Germans turned on him every weapon they had; he was gassed and his respirator was shot through. But Waite had heard him and returned." - C.E.W. Bean.

Such acts of bravery and gallantry should always be remembered as we should with those great men and women who have given their lives for our country.

Lest we forget.

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