Deadly toll of war to be remembered across the Illawarra

WE WILL REMEMBER: Wollongong RSL sub-branch president Peter Poulton at the Wollongong Cenotaph. Picture: Adam McLean.
WE WILL REMEMBER: Wollongong RSL sub-branch president Peter Poulton at the Wollongong Cenotaph. Picture: Adam McLean.

While Remembrance Day has become the time to remember soldiers lost in all wars, there’s one war which stands out.

The sheer scale of the losses in World War 1 may explain why, almost a century later, its end still captures the imagination of Australians young and old.

Of the 102,000 Australian servicemen and women who have lost their lives in conflicts, more than 61,000 of them died in WW1. This from a nation which had a population of just five million.

The myriad horrors of trench warfare, the sheer bloodiness of the campaign, and the formative scars inflicted on an entire generation from this then-young nation ensure that November 11, marking the end of WW1 in 1918, will always retain its grim significance.

As the veterans of that war are now gone, it is up to younger generations to continue the movement.

The children of Goodstart Mangerton have been learning how this day has special significance.

For two years, staff and children at the centre have ventured to Figtree Bowling Club for the Remembrance Day service.

Centre director Fiona Veld and educator Narelle Ahling said these excursions were an opportunity to connect with the wider community.

“We hope that by learning about the significance of the day at a young age children will develop respect and appreciation for what the day stood for,’’ Ms Ahling said.

The children have also been reading The Poppy. The book written by Australian author Andrew Plant is based on the connection between French village Villers-Bretonneux and the state of Victoria.

Villers-Bretonneux was the site of a campaign involving the allied forces, where 2400 Australian soldiers died recapturing the village, which was largely destroyed.

After WWI money donated by school children in Victoria was used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux, named the Victoria school.

Goodstart Mangerton has also made connections with a nursery school in the French village and have sent handmade poppies and some Australian books, translated to French in an attempt to share some local culture with the children of Villers-Bretonneux.

Families have also been collecting items to send care packages to Australian troops and the explosion detection dogs serving overseas, which Australia Post will send for free.

Remembrance Day across Wollongong will be united by a minute’s silence at 11am.

The Wollongong RSL sub-branch will hold its major ceremony at the Cenotaph on Church St, starting from 10.30am.

Corrimal’s serivce will be held by that suburb’s sub-branch from 10.30am at ANZAC Grove, on Railway St. Four local schools will be attending as well as service men and women.

The Dapto-Port Kembla RSL’s ceremony is well attended and will be held at Lakeside Memorial Park, Kanahooka, from 10.45am. 

Coledale RSL will host a ceremony starting shortly before 11am at the war memorial on Lawrence Hargrave Drive.

Albion Park RSL sub-branch will start its ceremony about 10.30am at the memorial garden at the club, on Tongarra Rd.