Honouring the Brave
Well before the likely outcome of the War was certain, there was a strong desire to honour those who were serving, together with those who had been killed. This was not surprising, given the War was being fought on a scale, magnitude and horror that eclipsed anything that previous generations had experienced, or could even imagine possible.
As early as April 1917, the local Presbyterian Missioner, John Armour organised an Anzac Memorial service at the Presbyterian Church. During this, Mr Armour read the “roll of honour” (presumably of local Presbyterians who had enlisted) which was draped with the Union Jack, while the names of four soldiers who had fallen in battle were attached to a wreath of white flowers (BSN 11/5/1917, p. 2). A roll of honour was dedicated at the Pakenham Upper Hall in September 1917, while trees were planted in the Pakenham Upper Reserve in honour of “our boys” at the Front (DA 30/8/1917, p.2). In April 1918, St Patrick’s Catholic School also dedicated a memorial to former students who had volunteered, while Pakenham State School (No 1359) similarly dedicated a roll of honour shortly after the Armistice in November 1918.
young men of the Australia to “reinforce those at the front who had been putting up such a noble fight”. He also spoke of the good work being done at home by the Red Cross. The formalities were accompanied by a “first-class musical programme” provided by local talent and the audience “joined in a number of patriotic choruses, and everything went with a good swing”. The evening ended with a “most enjoyable dance” (PG 23/11/1917 p.3).Unfortunately, Harry had quite a lot of hard work ahead of him. His power of attorney James Ahern (Berwick Shire Clerk) had found experienced farm labour hard to hire due to the manpower shortage. As a result, Harry’s property had run down while he was away (NAA B73, M15344). Private Ted Cook, who was welcomed home in June 1918, was more fortunate than Harry: his friends and neighbours arranged periodic working bees to keep his orchard in shape (PG 7/6/1918, p.3).
In early 1918, a special “Soldiers’ Welcome” committee was formed in Pakenham, chaired by Cr William Stephenson, with Vic Treloar and William Webster as secretaries and G. H. Martin as Treasurer. The Committee’s first task was to arrange a welcome home social for five more volunteers who had returned, as well as to raise funds so that the soldiers could receive a presentation (PG 26/4/1918 p. 2. It was decided that only those soldiers who had either enlisted from Pakenham or were “directly interested in the place” (i.e. had enlisted elsewhere, but were “natives of Pakenham” and still had family in the District) would be be invited to the welcome home, together with relatives of those who had been killed during the War. Each soldier or their families would receive a suitably inscribed gold medallion (PG 10/5/1918, p. 2). Over £30 was raised immediately for the soldiers’ welcome fund (PG 10/5/1918, p.3). The first of these welcome home socials was held on 30 May 1918. The event was described as one of the “largest and most enthusiastic” gatherings ever held in town: “The people as a whole recognise the noble work done and sacrifices made by the soldiers and they are not slow to show their appreciation” (PG 7/6/1918, p. 3). Speaking at the event, Cr Stephenson said: “All the boys who had gone to the front from this district had played their part well and the people felt they could not do enough for them. If any men were entitled to the good things that Australia could provide it was the men who had fought for the country.” Similarly, Frank Groves, the local member of State Parliament, said that “the people of Pakenham had done nobly and well in sending their young men to the front, and he was sure they were prepared to do their best for the lads when they had returned”. He described the welcome home as a “good start”, but said Australia needed to ensure that the lads got a “fair and square deal on their return”. The Shire Secretary, James Ahern though, noted that two of the returned soldiers, Ted Cook and John Simmons, had been unable to obtain the assistance they required from the State War Council, and expressed concern that their claims might be overlooked. Dr Douglas White, speaking for the local Red Cross, hoped a committee would be formed to look after the returning soldiers (Ibid).
The medallions were the sort of memento that the men could wear on their fob watch chains “so that they might point to them with pride when asked: ‘What did you do in the Great War, daddy?'" (Ibid). A similar event was organised a month later at Pakenham Upper for Privates Bertram Mullett, Ted Cook and Charles Johnstone (PG 5/7/1918 p. 2 & SBMJ 11/7/1918, p. 2) at which the honoured soldiers were presented with framed “photo certificates”. At this event, Captain Morris, who had recently settled at Pakenham Upper, spoke about what it was like in the countries devastated by war “and assured those present that they have only the faintest idea of what war really means” (DA 4/7/1918, p. 2).
Left: Two of the first memorials to the district's soldiers: Trees planted at Pakenham Upper in August 1917 and the Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour, dedicated in September 1917.
The first Diggers return home
From around 1916 onwards, there was a trickle of wounded and discharged soldiers returning to Pakenham. One of these was Driver Harry Worship, who had been amongst the first to enlist back in 1914. After being discharged as medically unfit, Harry returned to Pakenham South in November 1917, where was given a “hearty”, “bright and enthusiastic” welcome home at the Pakenham South School. This was an opportunity for the community to express its pride in “the lads who had gone to the front to fight on behalf of the Empire”. At the event, William Close presented Harry with a “gold Albert” as a “small token of the esteem in which he was held by his district friends and hoped he [i.e. Harry] would be long spared to wear it”. In his own remarks, Harry called upon the
Special gold medallions were presented to the relatives of Jack Clancy and Tim Halloran, who had both been killed on the Western Front and to Privates Ted Cook, Bill Abrehart, Ernest Cameron, Vic Fowler and John Simmons, who were present at the event. These medallions were inscribed with the words: “Presented to [soldier’s name] by the residents of Pakenham for services abroad with the AIF” (Ibid). As Dr White said at a later welcome home, these medallions were not a reward, but “a token of appreciation for the work they had done in upholding the honour and integrity of their district. The V.C. [Victoria Cross] was not of great intrinsic value, but it was the greatest honour that could be obtained by a British soldier; in the old-time Grecian Olympic games a wreath of laurel was the much coveted prize ... We hand the medal to our soldiers recognising what they had done - they had gained the respect of the whole world" (PG 17/10/1919, p. 2).