Tribute to fallen heroes of WWI

Good Samaritan Catholic School student Lola Sossai among a crowd of students at the service. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Good Samaritan Catholic School student Lola Sossai among a crowd of students at the service. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Thousands of kilometres removed from the battlefields of the Western Front and Anzac Cove at Gallipoli, hundreds gathered in Balgownie on Monday to mark a century since Australia entered World War I.

August 4, 1914, was remembered as the day Britain - and Australia, as part of the Commonwealth - declared war on Germany.

"Little did we know we were about to embark on one of the most horrific eras of our time," said Peter Poulton, chair of the Illawarra Centenary Anzac Committee, to the crowd gathered at the Balgownie war memorial.

More than 60,000 Australians died in four years of fighting, including 25 of 111 volunteers Balgownie gave to the war.

It was this harsh statistic, such a contribution from a hamlet so small, that Mr Poulton said made Balgownie the "unanimous" choice of ceremony venue.

NSW governor Marie Bashir, Illawarra mayors, and federal and state MPs paid respect to names on the memorial, as military historian Mark Edwell said Balgownie had the third-highest troop contribution per capita of anywhere in Australia.

"They were prepared to give their lives for peace and justice," Governor Bashir said.

Ex-servicemen young and old were present, but students from schools around the region, from Balgownie to Minnamurra, Fairy Meadow to Jamberoo, played roles.

Veterans were among the attendees at the Balgownie World War I commemoration. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI.

Veterans were among the attendees at the Balgownie World War I commemoration. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI.

Reciting psalms and joining for a 50-strong choir, children and the Australian Army Band provided song to the ceremony.

"It is inspiring to see respect and pride for ex-servicemen growing each year, particularly amongst young people," Governor Bashir said.

At the ceremony's conclusion, the governor passed among the children, offering wise words.

"The best thing about those soldiers was they looked after each other," she quietly told the children. "Make sure you look after each other, too."

Marie Bashir lays a wreath at the memorial. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Marie Bashir lays a wreath at the memorial. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

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