Pakenham State School Roll of Honour
Top: The Pakenham State School Roll of Honour; Middle: A patriotic display at Pakenham State School; Bottom: Miss Freddie Hagens (centre) with the Pakenham State School Board. Courtesy of Berwick - Pakenham Historical Society
Following the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, the Pakenham State School (No 1359) also unveiled a Roll of Honour to commemorate the service of its former students. The Pakenham State School was established back in the 1870s near the Toomuc Creek, but moved in the early 1890s to a site between Main St and McGregor Rd, near St James’ Church. From 1896 until 1926, the Head Teacher was Miss Maria Frederika “Freddie” Hagens, who was described as an “outstanding and beloved teacher, who impressed wherever she went” (Department of Education 1973 p. 1191). Freddie Hagens was assisted by her sister Louise (“Cissie”) Hagens who was sewing mistress. In the years prior to the War, Pakenham State School had an enrolment of around 70 students and a third (junior) teacher was also appointed (Back to Pakenham Committee 1951, p. 11).
The idea of dedicating an honour roll came from two past pupils: Olive Paternoster and Ivy Webster, who raised the money from other former students who were eager to assist. At the time, the honour roll was described by the Pakenham Gazette as a “large and pretty one, constructed of Australian figured oak, finely polished” with gold lettering. The Gazette praised Olive and Ivy for their “thoughtfulness for the school and the honour of the boys at the Front” (PG 29/11/1918, p. 3). A total of 31 former students were listed on the roll. The unveiling ceremony was presided over by William Close JP, who was the Chairman of the School Committee and attended by the Minister for Education, the District School Inspector, other School Committee members and local dignitaries including the Berwick Shire Clerk James Ahern, the Church of England rector and Arthur Greenwood JP. Patriotic songs and speeches to honour “those who attended this school and went to fight for the right and freedom of the Empire” were the order of the day.
William Close opened the proceedings by referring to the number of former students who had enlisted and the “fine work done by the school to help in the War”, including fund-raising and comforts provided to the soldiers. Mr Close also noted the school’s fine academic record, which he said “reflected great credit on the teacher, Miss Hagens”, a sentiment echoed in the other speeches too. In the keynote speech, the Minister of Education (Mr Hutchinson) highlighted the example of the former students who would not be returning home: “We would always remember these boys in our hearts, and we should see that the sacrifices made by them were not made in vain ... Their names on the Honour Roll would be a constant reminder to the boys and girls of to-day [sic], and to those who would follow of the men who helped the Empire in her time of need and had made great sacrifices”. It was hoped that their parents and relatives would find consolation in the fact that “their boys died to save a nation’s honour”. The Minister also hoped that the recently declared Armistice would prove to be a lasting peace since “the gospel of right over might had been exulted and humanity had triumphed”. Speaking of the current students, the Minister expressed confidence that their “self denial” and “loving service on behalf of the soldiers” during the War would “build up their character and make them better men and better women” in the future. The students cheered the Minister when he announced they were being given a special half day off on Monday (PG 29/11/1918 p.3).
Of the 31 names listed on the roll, eight (or just over 25%) are marked with a small cross inicating that they made the “ultimate sacrifice”. Unfortunately, in the absence of enrolment records, it is not clear when all of the former students attended the school. Many of those honoured (and their families) had left the district by the time the war broke out. This explains why many of the names on the Pakenham State School Roll of Honour did not subsequently appear on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial dedicated in 1921. That their service and sacrifice was nonetheless remembered by their “alma mater” bears witness to enduring bonds of friendship formed at the school and the pride which Miss Hagens felt in her former pupils: Miss Hagens later had another honour board inscribed with the names of her past students who had obtained their merit certificates (PG 19/12/1919 p. 3). Miss Hagens’ pride in her former students was reciprocated by them: in 1915, it was noted her former students had come from all over Australia to attend a special reunion held in her honour (DA 4/2/1915, p.2). The Honour Roll became the focal point for the Pakenham State School’s annual Anzac Day celebrations. For example, Anzac Day 1919 was marked at the School by saluting the flag, unveiling the Honour Roll and reading out the names listed on it (PG 2/5/1919 p. 2). Such ceremonies continued at the school for decades. Eventually, the Pakenham Consolidated School donated the Roll of Honour to the Berwick - Pakenham Historical Society, where it is now on display.