HISTORIAN Ian Charlton couldn’t resist the challenge of telling the story of Chiltern’s World War I Diggers when he found not all were on the town’s honour roll. Olivia Lambert found the results of his work on show at the Chiltern Athenaeum Museum in the form of 106 pictures of graves and memorials and a poppy from the Tower of London, part of the town’s Anzac Day commemoration.
SOON after the landing at Gallipoli, Chiltern Valley’s Alf West was wounded.
He was taken to Malta and wrote home, assuring his parents he would be walking in two months.
He would ask how the football team was going and said he wished he was back home.
Another letter followed soon after, saying similar things, but the handwriting was different as Mr West was dictating to somebody else because he couldn’t sit and write.
The next letter his parents received read “your son is dead” and explained how Mr West’s injuries had been extreme.
His parents were also told their son hadn’t had a chance of surviving and that he had put on a brave face right until the end.
This is just one of the stories being told in Chiltern today after historian Ian Charlton researched soldiers with connections to the area who enlisted in the Great War.
Featured at the Chiltern Athenaeum Museum are 106 pictures of graves and memorials and a poppy from the Tower of London.
Mr Charlton began tracing the stories of the soldiers after he found not all were on the town’s honour roll.
“It has 350 names and most of those aren’t associated with the town today,” he said.
“That’s because Chiltern was a gold-mining town and, when the war ended, there was no gold left so soldiers never came back.”
Mr Charlton said his research had led him to others who were born in Chiltern or who had lived in the town when they were children.
“Some of those who moved to a different area didn’t even get on the honour roll where they moved,” he said.
“The question was: ‘How do you get your name on an honour roll?’ Basically somebody had to remember you.”
Mr Charlton began his research in 1999, and focused more on it 18 months ago to prepare for Anzac Day.
“I think there is so much you can learn from these stories,” he said.
“You see what they did and what they had to go through and compare it with today.”
The display is be part of Chiltern’s Anzac Day commemoration before a book launch tomorrow.
The book carries the stories printed in the Federal Standard newspaper of soldiers with connections to Chiltern.
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