Courtesy of Emerald Museum
Private Stanley Sydney Sawers +
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham State School Roll of Honour
Born: 1892 - South Melbourne, Victoria
Enlisted: 1 November 1915 aged 23
Unit: 5th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement (SERN: 4589)
Served: Egypt & Western Front
Killed in action: 19 July 1916, Fleurbaix near Fromelles.
Stanley was a son of Henry Thomas and Emma Sawers, who were amongst the first settlers in Pakenham South. As a child, Stanley attended Pakenham State School. He was a 23 years old farm labourer when he enlisted on 1 November 1915 (1) at Emerald. There, Stanley had been working at the Nobelius Nursery for two years and was also actively involved in the local football and rifle clubs (2). Following his enlistment, Stanley was initially assigned to the 23rd Depot Battalion at Royal Park, before being transferred to Castlemaine Army Camp. He was then transferred to the 5th Battalion 14th Reinforcement as a private. Stanley left Melbourne on 28 January 1916 bound for Egypt. After further training there, he embarked for the Western Front with the 60th Battalion in June 1916 (3).
Less than a month later, Stanley was reported missing during the Battle of Fromelles. Later, it was established that he had been killed at Fleurbaix during the fighting. According to a Red Cross Report provided to Stanley’s mother, one of his mates saw him on the evening of the 19th “hanging over parapet dead”: “I saw Sawers and stopped, and seized his hand and squeezed it, there was no response. It was icy cold. I am certain he was dead” (4). Sadly for the Sawer family, the personal tragedy of WWI was not confined to Stanley’s death: two of his cousins were also killed during the War (5).
Stanley’s service and sacrifice was recognised on the Pakenham State School Roll of Honour, unveiled in November 1918. On this, he is listed as “S. Sawyers”. His name was also included on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial, dedicated in 1921. That year, Stanley’s mother Emma wrote to the Defence Department seeking the return of Stanley’s personal effects. She was told that none had been recovered (6). The following year, Emma was informed that Stanley’s remains had not been located, and it was decided to commemorate his sacrifice on one of the collective memorials being dedicated on the Western Front (7). Eventually his name was inscribed on the memorial at VC Corner at Fromelles, as well as on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The assistance of Chris Britton and the Emerald Museum is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) (3) (4) (6) & (7) NAA B2455 SAWERS STANLEY SYDNEY
(2) & (5) AWM Roll of Honour File - 4589 Sawers Stanley Sydney