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Gone but not forgotten

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A service at Wallsend’s World War I Memorial on Friday 24 May will commemorate 100 years since its unveiling as a tribute to local soldiers.

Huge casualties from Gallipoli and the Western Front had such an impact on the community in 1918 that Wallsend parents, grieving the loss of their sons, did not want to wait until after the war to see a monument erected to acknowledge the sacrifice and service.

A community committee was formed, chaired by the mayor of Wallsend Town Council, to raise funds by donation and public subscription.

Its current location at Wal Herd Park.

Individuals and organisations like the Red Cross Society were involved.

When a foundation stone was laid by David Watkins MHR Newcastle on 14 December 1918, most of the money was already raised.

The location was chosen at the tram terminus, between the rotunda and post office.

The memorial, unveiled by John Estell MLA Wallsend on 24 May 1919, was engraved with the names of 332 Wallsend men who enlisted; 68 were killed, two had been awarded the Victoria Cross, five received the Military Cross, and five the Military Medal.

At the unveiling ceremony, the mayor Ald T Abel, suggested that a plaque should be added to the memorial with the names of the nurses who had gone from the town.

This was a whole-of-community memorial.

During the war, friends of two Wallsend men killed in Gallipoli and France, William King and Leslie Oliver, organised funds and erected marble memorial tablets on the tram terminus rotunda.

Those two memorials are still there today.

Other plaques were later added to honour those killed during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as commemorate the Anzac Centenary in 2015 when the memorial was restored using grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The memorial was relocated in 1971 to its present location in Wal Herd Park on Cowper Street to allow for the widening of Tyrrell Street.

The people of Wallsend, who paid to erect the soldiers’ memorial, were concerned that future generations should not forget the sacrifice of the World War I volunteers’ and should take care of those returned soldiers who were wounded or needed help to return to civilian life.

The ceremony, which starts at 10.30am on 24 May, shows the commitment from our generation to that cause.

For more information, contact Wallsend Heritage Group president Kav Martin on 4953 1331 or patron John Mills, 0418 687 869.

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