New England District RSL president Gordon Taylor joins Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks to mark the death of Private Vincent Kelly, Lance Corporal Maurice Hoare Barlow and Private Edgar William James Woolgar

REMEMBERING LIVES LOST: Gordon Taylor president of the New England district RSL unveils the memorial with Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks: Photo supplied.

REMEMBERING LIVES LOST: Gordon Taylor president of the New England district RSL unveils the memorial with Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks: Photo supplied.

A memorial for three soldiers who were drowned in a foolhardy training exercise in the flood swollen Beardy River on January 1, 1943 was officially unveiled on Tuesday.

The site of the accident, and the memorial stone, is on the property owned by the current deputy mayor of Glen Innes, Dianne Newman.

New England District RSL president Gordon Taylor said he and Ms Newman had been speaking about the need for some sort of memorial for years.

"During World War II there was a big army training camp where the golf course is now," Mr Taylor said.

"The site where the soldiers drowned is on a stretch of river 30 foot deep between two water holes and there is a small crossing which they were made to cross - you can imagine what that was like with another 10 foot of river rushing over it.

"They would have been doing a forced march with full packs on to get them fit, which was a regular thing everyday.

"The exercise was about discipline - it was something like we all did in the forces- they'd send you in just to show that they could.

"They wouldn't do that now but just about everyone in the sub-branch has some sort of injury where training went wrong in the past."

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At the time, the coroner's report said the platoon, under the command of Sergeant Owen, was in full equipment marching single file across the river. The first twelve soldiers made it across, then 21-year-old Private Vincent Kelly and two others got into difficulties when they were washed into the deep water.

Lance Corporal Maurice Hoare Barlow seeing the problem, swam back 30 feet and grabbed his drowning friend Private Kelly, but in the struggle, both men drowned. Another soldier, 19-year-old Private Edgar William James Woolgar, drowned, and Corporal John Tee had to be resuscitated.

Private Kelly's body was recovered later in the day, and 20-year-old Lance Corporal Barlow's body was recovered from a deep hole, three days later, in the presence of his father.

All three soldiers were from Queensland but were buried in the Glen Innes cemetery. Their deaths were recorded as being accidental or 'death by misadventure'.

About 20 people attended Tuesday's event including Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks, deputy mayor Dianne Newman, members of the Glen Innes Historical Society and Glen Innes RSL sub-branch, Manilla RSL president Ian Bignall, along with Howard Eastwood and his wife Pam.

Mr Taylor said they managed to fit the formal proceedings in between storms before adjourning inside for a nice afternoon tea.

This story A soldier memorial is unveiled and the tragic tale of young lives lost is revealed first appeared on Glen Innes Examiner.