THE 1000-kilometre journey by Albury’s most decorated soldier, Albert Borella, is the centrepiece of World War I centenary commemorations in the Northern Territory.
The territory’s Chief Minister, Adam Giles, this month unveiled the Borella Ride — a re-enactment of the route taken by the future Victoria Cross winner in 1915.
Borella, a Victorian by birth who had struggled to farm marginal country at Daly Waters, was a cook with a government survey party at Tennant Creek before his arduous trip to enlist.
Mr Giles said the journey would be replicated from February 20 to March 5 next year with community activities and plaques unveiled along the route.
“Albert Borella walked, swam through flooded rivers, rode horses and finally got on a mail coach and a train to Darwin,” Mr Giles said.
“Unable to sign on there, he took a ship to Queensland to enlist and, later, on to Western Australia to train.
“He served at Gallipoli and was then transferred to the action of the Western Front.”
Historian Tom Lewis said the $1.7 million Borella Ride was suggested 18 months ago as part of a brainstorming session on how to mark World War I in the Northern Territory.
The event will start with a three-day walk from Tennant Creek to Renner Springs where Borella began his ride.
A mail coach will then join participants at Katherine before a train ride from Pine Creek to Darwin.
It coincides with the Top End’s wet season and that, Dr Lewis said, could disrupt the schedule.
“Conditions are really tough but what we’ve got to console ourselves with is that Borella did it,” Dr Lewis said.
“We’re doing it in the 21st century and he just did it matter of factly.
“He’s a symbol of Australian resilience.”
Dr Lewis said organisers were keen to draw interest from across Australia and theborellaride.com.au had been created to outline details.
Borella received the Victoria Cross for defying a hail of machine-gun fire at Villers-Bretonneux in 1918 to shoot two Germans and capture their gun.
Borella was feted as a hero. At the age of 36, he was the oldest recipient of the Victoria Cross among the first Australian Imperial Forces.
He moved to Albury in 1945 and worked at the railway station before retiring in 1956. He died aged 86 on February 7, 1968.
Albury honoured its adopted son by renaming Sydney Road to Borella Road in 1956.