Community vows “we will remember them” as the region’s service history is marked

HISTORY: Sebastopol CFA's Paul Jenkins, Tony Brady, Ben Carey and Bill Cook with Pvt Reeves' wallet.
HISTORY: Sebastopol CFA's Paul Jenkins, Tony Brady, Ben Carey and Bill Cook with Pvt Reeves' wallet.

Exactly 100 years ago on Sunday, Ballarat-born soldier George Leslie Reeves was killed during the Battle of Amiens in France – one of about 3000 Australian casualties during the five day assault that was the beginning of the end of WWI.

Before he left Ballarat, fellow members of the Sebastopol Fire Brigade presented him with an embossed leather wallet that he carried with him in to battle. A century to the day of his death later, the old guard of Sebastopol CFA held that same wallet in their hands as Private Reeves and 21 other Ballarat soldiers killed during the Battle of Amiens were remembered.

The wallet was returned to his parents Annie and Charles whose descendants have since entrusted it to the Sebastopol Historical Society.

World War I historian Gary Snowden said of the 22 Ballarat soldiers who lost their lives during Amiens, nine have no known grave and four also lost brothers during WWI.

Bacchus Marsh also remembered its fallen fathers and sons on Saturday as its marked the 100th anniversary of the planting of its Avenue of Honour.

With 281 majestic elm trees towering overhead, dignitaries, descendants and locals gathered for a ceremony and a march along the avenue to the RSL where stories were swapped over tea and Anzac biscuits.

Bacchus Marsh RSL president Cherrison Lawton said the commemoration was in part the fulfilment of the promise “we will remember them”. “It was an honour for them to sign on the line to be volunteers and they made the ultimate sacrifice,” she said.

MARCH: The centenary procession along the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour. Pictures: Luka Kauzlaric

MARCH: The centenary procession along the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour. Pictures: Luka Kauzlaric

After a short ceremony, a procession made its way along the avenue with a knitted wreath being attached to each tree. 

Historian Tony McManus, who is researching the story behind each name plaque along the avenue, said while there were 281 trees and names, there were actually 480 people from the district eligible for a tree.

But because it cost 10 pounds for a plaque, many families could not afford it.

REMEMBER: Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia Ballarat president Sandy McCann. Picture: Kate Healy

REMEMBER: Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia Ballarat president Sandy McCann. Picture: Kate Healy

A service in Ballarat on Sunday also marked the 50th anniversary of the Battles of Fire Support Bases (FSB), Coral and Balmoral during the Vietnam War. A number of Ballarat veterans who were part of the battles, the largest action during the war, were present at the service at the South East Asian Memorial at the corner of Sturt and Dawson streets.