Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It’s the day on which we remember all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in war and on operational service past and present.
To commemorate Anzac Day on April 25th, we wanted to acknowledge the brave men and women in your families who served their country. From those who went to battle, to the ones they left behind, it is an honour to share these customer stories of courage and sacrifice.
In 2015, I donated money to the Poppy Park installation that was built in Penrith, NSW for the Anzac Day commemorations and once the display had ended, I was sent one of the fabric poppies with the name of a soldier in WWI – Harold Leslie Rhynehart.
Curious to learn more about this brave man who served our country, I used Ancestry to learn more about Harold and discovered that he as 26 years old when he enlisted in July 1915. Sadly, he was killed in Bullecourt, France in May 1917 when Australian and British forces tried to break the Hindenburg Line.
My husband and I then visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to find Harold’s name and made sure that we were there at a time when his name was projected onto the Hall of Memory. Even though he is not my relative, I remember Harold Leslie Rhynehart each year on Anzac Day and thank him for the sacrifice he made.
Whilst tracing my family tree, I discovered a long-forgotten great grand uncle with no wife or descendants who was killed in Belgium during WWI. Amazed by the actions of this heroic man, my partner and I travelled from Melbourne to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate in my ancestor’s honour on the 100th anniversary of his death because sadly, his grave site is unknown. Whilst there, we discovered his name carved on the panels of the walls of the gate along with 50,000 lost soldiers – it was a very humbling experience.
My great grand uncle James Edward Pavey was travelling the world as a young man when WWI broke out. Miles away from his home of Cheddar, UK, he signed up in Sydney and served in the Australian Imperial Force at Gallipoli. I knew about his story through our family narrative, but through the Australia, WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 on Ancestry I was able to learn more about James’ life – that he was 24 years and 10 months old when he joined the 2nd Reinforcement of the 13th Battalion and was a printer by trade. That he was 5 feet and 8 inches tall, of fair complexion with grey eyes and a large scar on his chest, and that he carried with him ‘2 Devotional Books’, a handkerchief and a tobacco tin. That he was killed in service on 4th May 1915 at the age of 25.
The heart-breaking reality of the end of James’ short life is imprinted throughout his service record – from the heavy black ‘Deceased’ stamp on the first page to the numerous pronouncements of ‘killed in action’ throughout the rest of the documents. But it’s through the details of his life, painted in his elegant cursive handwriting in his Service Record that this young man comes alive, to be commemorated by my family and hopefully further generations to come.
Whilst researching my family tree, I learned that my second great uncle, Albert Stanley Noldart, enlisted in the 55th Australian Infantry Battalion during WWI.
His battalion were sent to Egypt before being transferred to France, where they took their place in the trenches along the Western Front in mid-July 1916, amidst heavy fighting on the Somme. At the Battle of Fromelles, they were initially placed in reserve but as the fighting stalled, the 55th battalion were tasked with providing the rearguard for the withdrawal of the assault formations – and sadly, my ancestor was killed, aged just 22 years old.
In Albert’s personnel file, I found numerous letters from his father trying to learn more about the circumstances of his son’s death – it must have been very hard for his family not to have the answers that they so desperately wanted.
I’m very proud of my connection to Albert Stanley Noldart and remember him, and those he left behind, on Anzac Day.