The final touches are now being put to the draft of a new book courtesy of Tenterfield Shire Council’s ANZAC Centenary Committee detailing all World War I soldiers with a district connection. The committee is very keen, however, that local families check any entries for their ancestor(s) so that the eventual publication is as accurate as possible.
Assembling the entries has been a mammoth task, primarily undertaken by researcher Jan Friar who couldn’t even hazard a guess at the number of hours she’s invested in the project.
“It would be thousands,” she said.
Even at the final hour yet another honour board was uncovered revealing more names to be investigated and another 22 additions to the book.
Records from 100 years ago were in some cases haphazard with a variety of spellings for the same name, use of initials or nicknames rather than full names, and the use of district names long since disappeared.
The names on several dozen honour boards from throughout the shire (and its neighboring locaties of Deepwater and Wallangarra) have been investigated, often with their ties to Tenterfield rather tenuous. Committee member Peter Reid said that some returned soldiers were also reticent about having their name included on an honour board, feeling that the tribute was more for those who died in conflict.
Celebrity entries include Banjo Patterson, who served in Egypt and, of course, married Alice Walker at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church here. But committees are endeavouring to include anyone who was born, enlisted, died or had some other connection to the district during their lifetime.
The initial 600 entries has blown out to around 1200 as more honour boards are discovered. Changes and corrections will also be reflected in the committee’s digital honour board.
In the meantime the committee is in the process of securing a grant to help with the production of the book and updating of the digital honour board. Community benefits, as stated in the grant application, include the records being a permanent resource for study thesis, and history on an Australian, Tenterfield, military and family basis.
Twelve draft copies due to become available by ANZAC Day, April 25. Each committee member will have a copy, and there will be a copy in both the Tenterfield Library and at council chambers for members of the public to check entries by September 30.
The first edition of the book will then be officially launched on Remembrance Day, November 11 and be available for purchase with a cover price of around $35.
“It will be a great resource for family historians,” Mrs Friar said.
She is concerned that thoughts of the contributions of these WWI servicemen and servicewomen will be lost once centenary commemorations pass, and this book will be an important and enduring record.
“Lest we forget,” she said.
“This is the way to remember them. This is a book you can hand on to your grandchildren, and some of the stories in there are absolutely amazing.”
The title of the book will be Some Time We’ll Understand.
She is hoping to find missing pieces of the puzzle, such as the local connection of one Robert Laing Chambers who was born in the Isle of Skye from the Dunn family renown for designing golf courses. He died on the battlefield in France, then his father joined the RAF and also died in France three years later.
But why does Robert’s name appear on a Tenterfield honour board?
She feels solving these puzzles will enhance the history of Tenterfield, which saw the coming and going of many itinerant workers attached to the railway or working Torrington or Drake mines.
“There are a lot a family names in the book, and a lot of ‘no idea’,” she said.