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New headstones honour unmarked war graves

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November 15, 2017

A Catafalque Party hold onto shrouds during a special service to honour five unmarked graves of WWI veterans in Carlyle Cemetery with new headstones. Photo: Simon Ginns.

The service for the new headstones on five unmarked graves in Carlyle Cemetery gets underway. Photo: Simon Ginns

Janice Thomas knew that her grandfather, Private Martin Pascoe, served in WWI and was buried somewhere in Carlyle Cemetery. Photo: Simon Ginns

John Collins attended the weekend’s special service where his great uncle was buried in an unmarked grave that has now been honoured with a new headstone. He is pictured with Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch Senior Vice President Craig Williams. Photo: Simon Ginns

The unmarked graves of five WWI veterans who lie in Carlyle Cemetery in the Rutherglen district have been honoured with new headstones.

They were unveiled as part of a special Remembrance Day service held on Saturday, November 11.

The new headstones are the culmination of two years of work by the Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch, Rutherglen Historical Society and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Personnel from the Army School of electrical and Mechanical engineering (ASeMe), Latchford Barracks and students from Rutherglen Primary School paired up during the service to conduct a simple ceremony at each graveside.

As the red and gold shroud was removed from each headstone, a single red poppy was placed on the grave.

The shrouds were then carefully folded and carried to a central table for the dedication.

The wartime experiences of the five men honoured are extraordinary.

Sapper William John Hutchison Allan served with 1 Field Squadron in Egypt from August 1918 to August 1919.

His unit supported the Moascar camp which acted as a staging post for the famous Light Horse Regiments.

He returned to Australia in 1919.

Meanwhile, Private John Collins enlisted in July 1915.

He stated his age as 44 years and 5 months but later medical records show that he was 51. Collins Served with the 8th Battalion in Gallipoli.

He joined 60th Battalion and entered France via Marseilles in June of 2016.

Pte Collins was severely wounded in July of 1916 at Armentieres during the Battle of Fromelles.

He was hospitalised for almost four months and returned to Australia in 1917.

Then there is Private Martin Pascoe who enlisted in October 1914 at the age of 27.

He served with the 7th Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli in May 1915.

Pte Pascoe was severely wounded in August 1915 when he received a gunshot wound to his left heal.

After returning to his unit he was wounded again in October 1915.

After serving in Palestine, Egypt and Gaza he returned home in November 1918.

The fourth grave was of Private John Aynsley Sullivan Enlisted in February 1916 at the age of 20.

He joined the 5th Battalion in France.

During the Autumn of 1916, Pte Sullivan fought at Ypres in Flanders and the Somme valley. In May 1917, Sullivan was diagnosed with Trench Fever (a painful, recurring disease carried by lice) and was hospitalised in England.

He was ill for 6 ½ months.

Pte Sullivan returned to his unit in June 1918 to fight in the Battle of Amiens.

He returned to Australia in November 1919 after marrying Winifred McKenna in Manchester.

Lastly, Private Francis Taylor enlisted in October 1916 at the age of 26.

He served with the 38th Battalion in France as was wounded in action October 1917 during the Battle of Broodseinde.

After hospitalisation in England, Pte Taylor returned to France to fight on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918.

He returned home in September 1918.

The five men honoured in Saturday’s ceremony are part of an ongoing project for the Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch.

So far, six unmarked graves in Carlyle Cemetery have received a fitting and permanent memorial after these five unmarked graves have now been identified.

An unknown number of Australian First World War veterans are buried across the country in unmarked graves.

Many survived the Great War carrying mental and physical scars and died within a few years of returning to Australia.

Veterans ended up in unmarked graves for many reasons; the lack of close family connections, a move interstate or a family unable to pay for a headstone and unaware of how to apply for a war grave.

In some cases, the history of family connections was simply lost over time.

Two weeks ago, Albury resident John Collins did not know he had a relative who fought in some of the most significant battles of the Great War.

He learnt of his namesake and great-uncle when Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch Secretary David Martin telephoned to tell him that five previously unmarked graves were to have their headstones dedicated on Remembrance Day.

“It was really a surprise,” he said.

“I am doing research on my father and uncles who served in the Second World War. We didn’t know we had one in the first World War.”

Another local resident Janice Thomas knew that her grandfather, Private Martin Pascoe, served in WWI and was buried in Carlyle Cemetery.

“When my grandfather came back from the war there was no money, they were very poor. Then the depression came, and then there was Second World War,” she said.

“It is very humbling, I am very proud and thankful. He was a fine bushman and rider and was one of the first to enlist.”

Following the ceremony, Mr Collins took a moment to reflect on the life of his great uncle.

“I’m feeling a bit sombre. I get a bit upset. We haven’t recognised him,” he said.

“I am just so grateful for what they have done. We really wish to thank the RSL and the Rutherglen Historical Society for putting all of this on and bringing our great uncle to our attention. We never had a clue about what he had done.

“We want to make sure we don’t forget him ever again.”

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