Lameroo honours lost heroes

23 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM
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Andrea and Heather Maynard are both part of the Lameroo Anzac Day Committee, which are hosting a dawn service in the town to honour the district's fallen soldiers and in celebration of 100 years since the Gallipoli landing.
Andrea and Heather Maynard are both part of the Lameroo Anzac Day Committee, which are hosting a dawn service in the town to honour the district's fallen soldiers and in celebration of 100 years since the Gallipoli landing.

THE little Mallee town of Lameroo was only eight years old when the Great War began.

Officially declared a town in 1906, Lameroo grew with the local railway - the driving force behind its settlement and development.

It also attracted many young workmen looking for employment on the land, and by 1911 the population had flourished to 957 - at least 100 more than today.

"Because everything was labour intensive, there was an incredible number of young men in Lameroo and district back then," local war historian Maureen Steinborner recalled.

The high population of males meant that when the enlistment rally rolled around, more than 80 signed up.

By war's end, 20 would pay the ultimate price with their lives.

In recognition of these great men and 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli, a Lameroo Anzac Day committee, in conjunction with the Lameroo Regional Community School, is holding a dawn service at the memorial gates of the football oval on April 25.

Starting at 6am, the service will be run by local RSL secretary Mick McAppion, who served in Borneo, Malaysia and Australia. He will also plant a Gallipoli Rose in the RSL memorial gardens to commemorate the 1915 Gallipoli Landing and all who served in the war.

A shotgun breakfast will follow at Lameroo Sports Club, before a second traditional service in the foyer of the Memorial Hall at 11am.

The school's student choir will team up with the local Sing Australia choir to perform at both services, while the Student Representative Council will lay a wreath at both. The student council will also create a memorial display in front of the Southern Mallee District Council chambers in the main street.

The students will put out 120-plus white crosses, one for every serviceman in the district who lost his life.

"Community members have also been knitting and crocheting red poppies, which will be attached to an old grey woollen wartime blanket and used as a display at the Anzac services," Mrs Steinborner said.

"The Lameroo & District Historical Society will also have an Anzac display - in the archive building - which will be a feature for some weeks."

Historical Society president Heather Maynard said local families such as the Collins' and Davies', had donated many mementos and memorabilia to the community archive. Oliver Collins left the family farm at Parilla, deployed to Egypt and Turkey with the Light Horse Regiment.

He returned to Australia in 1919, and started running his own farm at Parilla under the Soldier Settlement Scheme.

He farmed at Parilla until his passing, after which his family donated much of his war memorabilia to the Historical Society.

"We have everything, from his meal-ticket book, postcards and letters, his Red Cross bag, to his 'housewife' - a wooden sock mending and button-sewing accessory, which was part of a serviceman's kit," Mrs Maynard said.

Mr Collins had taken many photographs at the Front, ranging from soldiers using horses as shields to those showing more relaxed times in Egypt. The photos are now at the archive.

Two sons from the Davies family at Lameroo also served in World War I.

"Their mother was devastated when the younger son enlisted," Mrs Maynard said. "She didn't want both of them over there."

The elder son Stan spent four years in France and returned unscathed, while the younger Les contracted pneumonia in England and died. A nephew, who was a sailor, later visited his grave in Wiltshire.

"Lameroo was such a small town and we lost 20 men. Lameroo became devoid of young men," Mrs Steinborner said.

Mr McAppion has been conducting the Lameroo mid-morning Anzac Day services since 1998, after moving to the Mallee from Canberra.

"It is a respectful way to reflect on our fallen friends," he said.

He says it has been interesting to see the dramatic change of people's opinion of Anzac Day.

"When I lived in Canberra, I attended the dawn service every year, and back then a few thousand would be there," Mr McAppion said.

"But ever since 1988, Australia's bicentenary, it jumped to about 10,000 overnight. The following since then has been quite tremendous."

Mr McAppion was a serving soldier for 20 years, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer 1st Class.

The Lameroo RSL closed recently after losing members Bob Thurston, Les Hyde, Jack Walker and Jack Caulfield.

Another member - Doug Steer - now lives in Lameroo Hospital's Charles Wing, which honours the service of the Charles family, who sent nine sons to World War I and they all returned. Five served in the army and four in the navy.

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Alisha Fogden

Alisha Fogden

is cropping editor of Stock Journal

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