Life on the land in Australia

WEST AUSTRALIA Fremantle honours 849 fallen soldiers


These days the area accommodates a couple of schools and a church, however a section of parkland remains as a reminder of what the Blackboy Hill land was used for in the past; a training camp for soldiers preparing for war.

Blackboy Hill, in Greenmount on the edge of the Darling Scarp, was a military training camp that catered for 32,000 troops throughout a four year period at the start of World War One and its past will be remembered as part of a number of events next month.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first of the soldier’s journeys from the camp to ships, which eventually took them to battle grounds on foreign shores, the public will be invited to get a glimpse into life in the camp a century ago.

Ross Bydder, a Kalamunda resident, never knew the significance of Blackboy Hill until he started researching his family history.

His interest was sparked about five or six years ago when his mother was contacted by researchers who had information about one of her uncles who died on the Western Front while fighting in the First World War.

Mr Bydder’s two great uncles, his great grandfather’s older brother’s – James Rob Ross and Mervyn Ross – both fought in the war.

His research found that the brothers had signed up for war in 1915 and trained at Blackboy Hill before being sent overseas for further training and to fight on the frontline.

The two men never made it back from the war – both died in 1916.

Mr Bydder said that before looking into his family’s past, he had never heard of Blackboy Hill but visited the area after learning about it.

“There is not a lot there but it’s very poignant to go and stand there and be at the place that they were. It was a good feeling,” he said.

Mr Bydder said he was keen to take part in the activities taking place there for the centenary commemorations.

Re-enactments, storytelling and other activities will be held at the Blackboy Hill Commemorative Site as well as an RSL service next month.

The journey from Bellevue to Fremantle in 1914 was by steam locomotive and, on the anniversary of that journey, will be made by Australian Defence Force cadets on historic-looking carriages from Hotham Valley Railway on October 31.

Fremantle is preparing for crowds to gather for their arrival; as they did a century ago to commemorate the farewell of West Australian troops bound for was which at the time; was known as the World War.

On October 31, 1914, local troops were bound for Albany, where they joined the rest of the first convoy.

“There was much excitement and great rejoicing” according to Captain Walter Belford, who was quoted in a local paper.

“There was a vast concourse of people down at the wharf to see the troops off.”

In Fremantle, a commemorative service will be held at Victoria Quay.

The City of Fremantle will recognise the 849 local soldiers who died in the war as part of the events.

It is collecting stories, photos and medals from the relatives of the family of these men as part of the 849 project.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the names of all 849 men would eventually be engraved on plaques at the Fremantle War Memorial.

“It’s timely that we finally get to honour the memories of all 849 Fremantle soldiers that never came home by putting their names on the Fremantle War Memorial,” he said.

“Having their names forever etched in steel is a fitting tribute to these brave people and a place where their descendants can gather to remember them.”

National Commemorative Events state director Richard Muirhead told Fairfax Media that he expected the Blackboy Hill activities to provide a “rich learning experience” and the services to be solemn affairs.

There is capacity for 1000 people at Blackboy Hill, organisers are expecting about 5000 people in Fremantle and many more to line the train track where the train will travel slowly for school children to be able to get a good glimpse.

Mr Muirhead said he expected the events to spark renewed interest in Australia’s history.

Henry Sapiecha
September 15th, 2014
Topic: REMEMBER Tags: , , , ,

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