Ballarat's Arch of Victory and Avenue of Honour Committee has commemorated one of the Great War's most bloody and devastating battles, with committee members and students placing poppies beside the names of the fallen on the Memorial Wall adjacent to the Arch of Victory.
President Gary Snowden says it is sobering to remember that 64 enlisted men from Ballarat died in October 1917 fighting near Passchendaele in Belgium, 33 of those in the first week. Only the bloody battles of July 1916 at Fromelles and Pozieres in France, which claimed the lives of 75 Ballarat men, took a heavier toll.
The first Ballarat man lost was Ernest Gribble. From Mair Street, he had been educated at the Pleasant Street State School and was working as a tailor when he enlisted in March 1915. Seventeen-year-old David Powell from Sebastopol died the day after Ernest Gribble, but October 4 saw the death of 24 men in the mud of the fighting at Broodseinde Ridge.
Mr Snowden says the fact only two of those 24 men have a known grave gives indication of the carnage on the battlefield. The death of Spencer Day on that day was not the first blow suffered by his parents George and Mary from Wilson Street in Ballarat East; Spencer's brother William Day had been killed in action four months earlier.
James Peasnell, a former Queen Street State School boy, died of wounds on October 17. In 1912 he had been awarded the Albert Silver Medal for his bravery in trying to rescue fellow miners at the Mt. Lyell Mine disaster in Tasmania. Courage on the battlefield had already earned high level bravery awards for Joseph Pearce, Harry Holgate, Lewis Mudie and Henry Williams, who all lost their lives in October.
Of the 64 Ballarat men who died in October 1917 only 23 have a known grave. The other 41 have their names recorded among the 56,000 names on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium, so their tree and plaque in our Avenue of Honour affords each of them an individual memorial, Mr Snowden says.