Moulding memories

A structure of the mind; a memory burns brightest when given a tangible quality. These are the stories of how we remember.

"Careless of eye and coarse of lip, they marched in holiest fellowship."

Marjorie Pickthall

Pictures: Brodie Weeding, Words: Baz Ruddick

In history's hoofprints

In the desert sands of Palestine, young Tasmanians on horseback helped forge the future of the modern world.

One hundred years later, Lapoinya man Neville Humphreys will walk in their footsteps in full uniform in an effort to understand their experience and pay tribute to their tenacity.

A self-proclaimed “basic horseman”, Mr Humphrey’s interest in joining the contingent of 150 heading to Israel to re-enact the charge of Beersheba was sparked when he heard about the trip on the radio.

“I just thought ‘what an amazing experience’,” Mr Humphreys said.

With a bit of guidance from the Tasmanian 3rd Lighthorse Regiment historical troop, Mr Humphreys has gathered the pieces to create a complete uniform complete with hat and emu feather.

Looking the part, Mr Humphreys said the uniform has garnered strange looks from his own sons.

“They think ‘who is he pretending to be’, and I just say ‘that’s how it was back in my day in 1917 boys’,” he joked.

Mr Humphreys said while he has always enjoyed war movies, it was the prospect of this trip that really sparked his interest in history.

“Liberating Palestine again was very significant; they had been under Ottoman rule for about 400 years and it had a part in the establishment of modern nations,” he said.

Putting on the uniform and training for the ride, Mr Humphrey’s said he is getting a sense of what it was like for the 18 and 19-year-old boys as they prepared for war.

“I can just imagine them coming off the farm and going down to Hobart and preparing the war horses for transport,” he said.

“They were so far from home and they would have been riding down these quiet country roads and then they would have heard the call.”

Coordinated by the Australian Lighthorse Association, those taking part in the re-enactment will be sleeping in tents and following in the exact footsteps of the original soldiers.

“It will be about 25 kilometres riding a day [for three days],” he said.

“They were low on water when they did it and apparently if they didn’t break through they would have been stuffed; that is why the charge was at 4.30pm, an hour or two off dark.”

"Only the love of comrades sweetens all."
Ivor Gurney

Pictures: Cordell Richardson, Words: Baz Ruddick

Beyond a brother in arms

At a time when veterans remember their comrades, Gavin Pearce thinks of a dear mate of a different kind.

“Some people go on honeymoons, we went to Timor,” Mr Pearce laughed.

With a uniform in his hands, a tangible link to his late wife Amanda-Jane, Mr Pearce‘s soft eyes and wry smile hint at a flood of memories and feelings.

Standing as a symbol of service and care, one of Mrs Pearce’s uniforms will be put on display at the Wynyard RSL sub branch.

“She was in the Army Reserve and I was one of the Warrant Officers of a different unit,” he said.

Mr Pearce said this was not a “love in the trenches” scenario, but rather the result of a chance meeting in a social setting at an army base in Sydney.

Mrs Pearce, who was studying teaching when the pair met, entered the army full time and embarked on officer’s training after graduation.

From looking at a future managing a classroom full of kids, she eventually found her niche managing and keeping 35 helicopter pilots airborne as Operation Officer in the 1st Aviation Regiment.

As an officer, Mr Pearce remembers a highly intelligent leader with a gentle nature.

“Even though she was this pint sized thing in charge of these helicopter pilots they all worshipped the ground she walked on,” he said.

Mr Pearce said his wife applied her "service heart" to civilian life.

Beaming with her signature smile: Amanda-Jane Pearce lost her battle with lymphoma in 2009. 

Beaming with her signature smile: Amanda-Jane Pearce lost her battle with lymphoma in 2009. 

After 10 years service for Mrs Pearce and 20 for Mr Pearce, the pair entered civilian life with their son Hamish, moving to Lapoinya.

Mr Pearce said he believed her attraction to the army was a combination of a sense of service and an admiration of her grandfather, who served in WWII.

“He won the Military Medal for bravery and he was captured by the Vichy French; he staged a breakout then broke back in to steal their maps and secrets, captured some machine gun posts on the way out and fought his way back to the front,” he said.

In civilian life, Mr Pearce said she carried that “service role” into a position with the North-West’s Mental Health Services.

Just a week after diagnosis in 2009, 32-year-old Mrs Pearce lost her battle with an aggressive lymphoma.

“It was right throughout her body and wasn’t even worth doing chemo,” he said.

While his late wife creeps into his mind most days, on Anzac Day when he hears the Last Post she is at the forefront.

“They played it at her funeral; my little boy was eight and that was the last time he saw his mum,” he said.

"We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders fields."

John McCrae

Pictures: Cordell Richardson, Words: Baz Ruddick

A bloom of rememberance

Like a symbol of stoic resilience and re-birth in the face of devastation, the poppy was the first flower to burst from the blood soaked fields of the Western Front.

For the last two months in Waratah, volunteers have gathered with loving hands to roll, cut, squish and paint ceramic poppies as a symbolic homecoming for the region’s fallen diggers.

With a bloom that runs from the cenotaph to the waterfall, Waratah Poppy Project coordinator Anne Dunham said the idea was to immortalise the soldier’s spirits in the waterfall’s mist.

All hands on deck, the project began with an idea from London and a Centenary of ANZAC grant.

With military like organisation and a special ‘cookie cutter’ template constructed by Seba Sheetmetal, nearly 220 poppies have been created.

“We use two layers; you push one down and then lift the petally bits up and squish them together,” Tia Whyman said as she demonstrated the technique.

In addition to honouring the fallen, the project holds significance by helping the town rediscover those that have been lost to time.

Since hosting an exhibition about the region’s servicemen at the St James Church Gallery last year, Ms Dunham said through research they have discovered the 60 names on the town’s cenotaph are just the tip of the iceberg.

“I reckon we have about 300 or more soldiers who came from the area of Waratah, Magnet, Bischoff and Guildford,” she said.

“They [soldiers] jumped on the recruitment train, and while it [records] may have said they enlisted at Waratah, generally it was put down as Hobart,” Ms Dunham said.

Next year they plan to add personalised dog tags with names to the poppies to represent all servicemen from the area.

Sue Walsh said she often thought of her own father, who served in New Guinea and the Philippines, and other servicemen while at work.

“My late boss Mr Saunders was a returned serviceman from WWII, so at one stage I said ‘I will make this one for Mr Saunders’,” Mrs Walsh said.

By bringing people together, Mrs Walsh said the project was effective in honouring the memory of the servicemen.

Ms Dunham said the project helps to catch the community’s living stories.

“Stories are really, really important. We realise these things often after the event and it is usually when something happens and your parents are gone; you have lost something,” she said.

While they could have easily had the poppies manufactured en-mass elsewhere, the laborious process honours the sacrifice.

“They are not uniform; each poppy is unique,” Ms Dunham said.