Balgownie service marks 100 years since the declaration of WWI: photos

The names on the Balgownie War Memorial tell the story.

A tale of the 111 men and women who answered the call to serve their country at Gallipoli, the Western Front and elsewhere.

Twenty-five of them never came home.

It’s a story echoed on memorials in towns and suburbs across Australia.

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered to join NSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir at the Balgownie War Memorial to mark the 100th anniversary of the declaration of World War I.

Illawarra Centenary of Anzac Committee chairman Peter Poulton said Balgownie was typical of many Australian communities, both in the large number of people who volunteered and in the number who died.

‘‘Balgownie sent 111 from what was then a small hamlet and 25 of those – nearly a quarter – didn't return,’’ he said.

‘‘In total, Australia committed more than 400,000 people to the war.

"Of that, 60,000 were killed and 200,000 were wounded. That’s a horrendous casualty rate.

‘‘It changed Australia … it was the devastation that helped create Australia.’’

Many of those Balgownie residents who volunteered were coal miners and served in specialist tunnelling companies, using their mining skills to dig under German trenches and plant explosives.

The movie Beneath Hill 60 was based on their exploits.

Others served in light horse regiments or in the famous 13th Battalion, which fought at Gallipoli and at some of the pivotal battles in France and Belgium.

Casualties: the War Memorial at Balgownie.

Casualties: the War Memorial at Balgownie.

Monday’s ceremony will start at 10.30am and a 50-voice choir, formed from two Illawarra primary schools, and an army band will entertain the crowd.

Dame Marie Bashir will lay a wreath on behalf of all Australians and an Illawarra resident from New Zealand will lay a second wreath on behalf of his country.

Mr Poulton said the community was welcome to attend the ceremony and people could lay their own wreaths at the completion of the official ceremony.

While he will be busy with his official duties, Mr Poulton said he would take a little time out to contemplate the war service of family members.

‘‘My grandfather and his brother were at Gallipoli and the Western Front,’’ he said.

‘‘I will try to find a quiet moment to reflect on what they went through. My grandfather was gassed on the Somme and while he survived the war it led to his demise in the 1960s.’’

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