The villages that can never forget the boys they lost in Flanders


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Kelly, Baugh and Beddell had all walked or ridden their horses throughout rolling inexperienced paddocks dotted with huge outdated crimson gums to do their childhood guide learning at Bahgallah faculty.

However on at the present time, October four, 1917, they have been in Belgium, adrift inside a roaring confusion of artillery shells bursting throughout fields of sucking mud, machine-gun and sniper fireplace thick within the murk, and shot-to-hell timber nothing however ghostly splinters.

Bahgallah School.

Bahgallah College.

First World Warfare army overlords would later name the Battle of Broodseinde a splendid success. By this, they meant the target – to seize German-held positions and a few ruined villages on Broodseinde Ridge exterior Ypres – had been achieved.

However when that single day was executed, the stays of 1279 Australian troops lay on the mud or buried beneath it.


There have been nonetheless battles to go, for this was the slog for a village named Passchendaele – a phrase that may lodge itself into the nightmares of all who fought there.

The dreadful marketing campaign completed in November, when the ruined ridge-top was captured.

For this, 38,00zero Australians have been left lifeless or wounded (and when all of the British and German casualties have been counted, it got here to greater than 600,00zero).

Right here was the equation: 35 Australians had been killed for each metre that had been taken. And it was pointless.

A couple of months later, the Germans took all of it again in three days.

Within the lonely farmhouses of Bahgallah, the thought that three former students from the native faculty had vanished in a single battle on a single day was near unimagineable.

Jack Kelly was killed by 'friendly fire'.

Jack Kelly was killed by ‘pleasant fireplace’.Credit score:Joe Armao

Lance-Corporal John Kelly, recognized for all of his 26 years as Jack, was gone first.

Along with his comrades of the 39th Battalion, he went into battle at 6am, floundering by way of mud beneath a wall of artillery fireplace from British weapons.

It was generally known as a ‘‘creeping barrage’’. Explosive shells fired from the rear have been purported to land forward of the advancing troops, forming a transferring display screen of fireplace and granting cowl to the troopers as they inched ahead.

However Kelly and his mates moved too quick, or the barrage moved too slowly, or the gunners weren’t certain the place they have been aiming.

The dead and wounded on Broodseinde Ridge during the battle of Passchendaele

The lifeless and wounded on Broodseinde Ridge through the battle of Passchendaele

‘‘Pleasant fireplace’’ is the ghastly description of it.

A British artillery shell smashed into Jack Kelly’s again.

Afterwards, nobody may say fairly the place he might need been buried.

Not lengthy after, Edgar Baugh – he was at all times generally known as Paddy, having been born on St Patrick’s Day 22 years beforehand – discovered himself hunkered in a sodden trench, reduce off by attacking Germans from the principle physique of his 39th Battalion.

'Paddy' Baugh was shot by a sniper.

‘Paddy’ Baugh was shot by a sniper.Credit score:Joe Armao

With him was a mate from again dwelling, Albert Coulson, generally known as Bert. That they had signed up collectively at Hamilton on March 20, 1916, educated, as had Jack Kelly, with the 39th Battalion at Ballarat, and sailed collectively.

Now they have been determined to get out of their predicament collectively, however they feared snipers have been about.

A number of instances they put their helmets on the barrels of their rifles and raised them, with out drawing fireplace. Paddy, a corporal, put up his head to go searching. The sniper fired. Paddy Baugh died in Personal Bert Coulson’s arms.

Coulson, later rescued by reinforcements, made it dwelling to inform the story. However Paddy, whose mother and father had opposed him signing up for the struggle and who had left behind the bagpipes he performed as a boy within the Casterton pipe band, wouldn’t be seen once more.

Graeme Baugh and Gillian Elijah with a picture of Edgar Arthur Baugh.

Graeme Baugh and Gillian Elijah with an image of Edgar Arthur Baugh. Credit score:Joe Armao

Later, a discover was positioned within the Casterton Information. It was from a Miss Spring, mourning her misplaced ‘‘farmer boy’’. She and Paddy Baugh has been engaged to be married.

Time flowed. Blood mingled. Bert Coulson married and had a household. Considered one of his daughters had a son, Allan Elijah. Paddy Baugh’s brother Charlie had a daughter who in flip had a daughter, Gillian George.


Allan and Gillian married. And so the Baughs and the Coulsons, certain by an outdated tragedy, turned household.

The third scholar from Bahgallah who would die on the highway to Passchendaele on October four was George Beddell, of the seventh Battalion, aged 28.

Two weeks earlier than he was killed, George wrote to the aunt who had raised him in Bahgallah, saying ‘‘it received’t be lengthy earlier than we’re within the trenches and I hope that we don’t have an excessive amount of rain till we get out once more.’’

Within the rain-drowned slop of the Battle of Broodseinde on October four, George was seen by fellow troopers to fall wounded. However that’s all anybody will ever know.

Navy authorities reported Beddell lacking in motion. By a ghastly mix-up, the primary George Beddell’s aunt knew that one thing was mistaken was when she was notified that her nephew’s pay allocations had been reduce off.

It was not till the tip of October the next yr, 1918, that Beddell’s father lastly obtained formal notification of his son’s loss of life.

George Beddell was also killed at Passchendaele.

George Beddell was additionally killed at Passchendaele.Credit score:Joe Armao

Following the tip of the struggle, the Kelly household obtained the non-public results that Jack had left behind when he ventured out to do battle: letters, pockets, two photographs, one security razor, a prayer guide, a steel ring and two memento bullets.

Paddy Baugh’s mom was despatched her son’s pockets, personal papers and 5 cash.

George Beddell’s belongings amounted to not far more, and included a mirror (damaged). George’s father finally obtained a letter from the army authorities in June, 1921.

‘‘Pricey Sir,’’ it stated, ‘‘I remorse very a lot that, not withstanding the efforts of our Graves Providers Unit, we have now to date been unable to acquire any hint of the final resting place of your son, the late No. 6619 Personal G. Beddell, seventh Battalion.’’

The three Bahgallah scholars never came home again.

The three Bahgallah students by no means got here dwelling once more.Credit score:Joe Armao

However nobody round Bahgallah was about to neglect the three students who had been killed on a single day on the opposite facet of the world, nor any of their different males who had died.

Forgetting wasn’t within the nature of anybody in that complete district.

Round 20 kilometres to the east, the village of Merino was so stricken that even earlier than the struggle ended, the townsfolk had raised £150 to construct a stone struggle memorial in the principle avenue. It was unveiled on December 28, 1918 – lower than seven weeks after the Armistice.

The Victorian Governor, Sir Arthur Stanley, travelled the 300 kilometres from Melbourne to officiate, and gave the Casterton band, which offered the music, the best ever after to name itself the Casterton Vice-Regal Band.

The Merino war memorial.

The Merino struggle memorial.Credit score:Joe Armao

Merino’s memorial – maybe the primary in Victoria – consists of the names of 19 native troopers who died within the Nice Warfare. Amongst them, hideously, are two units of brothers, the Hurleys and the Buckles.
The three Hurley boys – twins Denis and Thomas and older brother Jeremiah – have been from the close by farming neighborhood of Wurt Wurt Koort.

Denis, aged 24, was killed by shellfire close to Pozieres on August 13, 1916. Thomas, 25, died on the observe to Passchendaele on October 12 the next yr. Jeremiah, 26, died of wounds on July 13, 1918, in northern France. One other Merino boy, Reginald Buckle, additionally died on July 13, 1918, after being wounded close to Hamel within the Somme Valley. His brother Frank had been killed two years earlier than within the hell of Pozieres.

The Buckle brothers’ cousin, Ruby Marshall, rigorously folded the letters the boys had written from the entrance and positioned them in a tin trunk. She died in 1928, however her granddaughter, Kath Baugh – a terrific niece by marriage of the misplaced Paddy Baugh – discovered them years later.

Reg Buckle wrote from England after being wounded earlier at Messines, Belgium: ‘‘It’s fairly a pleasant change to be over right here from the roaring weapons. It is going to be a good cow if I’ve to face them once more. I can guarantee you, Ruby, it’s a matter of as soon as hit twice shy at this recreation, and I don’t want to need to undergo France once more …’’

The cairn at the start of Digby's Avenue of Honour.

The cairn firstly of Digby’s Avenue of Honour.Credit score:Joe Armao

The grief was deep, too, on the tiny village of Digby, 9 kilometres south of Merino. The townsfolk there couldn’t bear to attend for the tip of the struggle, both – they started planting a Troopers Avenue of elms in August, 1917.

By the point it was executed, it honoured 97 troopers from the district and 28 of them, or multiple in 4, have been lifeless.

At the moment, Digby has a inhabitants of 124 and continues to be dominated by its fantastic avenue and a big corridor inbuilt 1926 to memorialise World Warfare 1 troopers.

A whole bunch nonetheless come for Digby’s Anzac Day daybreak service, and every Remembrance Day, posies of flowers are customary and positioned on the foot of each tree. Till 1991, when the timber’ nameplates have been changed by everlasting plaques, the ladies of the village ventured out yearly and re-painted every soldier’s identify.

Digby's Avenue of Honour is still a place of pilgrimage.

Digby’s Avenue of Honour continues to be a spot of pilgrimage.Credit score:Joe Armao

Virtually a century on, considered one of Jack Kelly’s nephews, David Kelly, travelled to Belgium, strolling within the footsteps of his father’s misplaced brother and the opposite Bahgallah troopers.

And there, on a quiet observe the place as soon as the Battle of Broodseinde raged, he got here throughout a stone cairn that includes the rising solar badge of the Australian Commonwealth Navy Forces and a brass plaque engraved with the phrases: ‘‘The Street to Passchendaele Australian Stroll, four October 1917’’.

The plaque in the Bahgallah village hall.

The plaque within the Bahgallah village corridor.Credit score:Joe Armao

Kelly, who lives in Geelong however hails from Casterton, vowed to have an an identical cairn customary for Bahgallah, the house of his father and Jack, the uncle who disappeared on October four, 1917.

Quickly his thought had the little neighborhood buzzing with plans for a 100th anniversary memorial occasion. Authorities funds have been sought, the Glenelg Shire, the researchers from Casterton and District Historic Society, district faculties, the Lions Membership, the Males’s Shed and different organisations received concerned.

Greater than 350 individuals turned as much as Bahgallah’s unveiling of the Passchendaele Stroll cairn from Broodseinde.

The little faculty was lengthy gone, leaving an empty paddock. However on the wall of the Bahgallah Troopers Memorial Corridor hung a good-looking honour board.

It was carved in 1917 from Gippsland mountain ash. The Nice European Warfare, it proclaims, Honor Roll: Bahgallah Previous Students and District Volunteers.

Engraved are the names of 38 Previous Students and 14 District Volunteers who had signed up for the Nice Warfare. And of them, 15 had misplaced their younger lives. Virtually one in each three.

In a century, the remembering has by no means stopped.

* With due to the Casterton and District Historic Society and members of the family of Nice Warfare troopers from Bahgallah, Merino and Digby.

Tony Wright is the affiliate editor and particular author for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald

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