The contributions of more than 100 servicemen and women from the Hunter villages of Kearsley and Abernethy during World War II have finally been honoured.
A commemorative ceremony took place last week, attended by the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC.
The Kearsley Community Dawn Service Committee hosted the remembrance observance for 103 men and women who were engaged in conflict during World War II but received no public recognition of their service.
“The vast majority of these people served our nation – during one of its darkest hours – with great distinction,” chair Jordan Fallon said.
“Despite their sacrifice to ensure our freedoms, they never received any public recognition.”
The committee has spent the past two years undertaking historical research to uncover and identify local residents who had served during World War II as part of their commemorations project.
“Countless hours spent analysing service records, historical newspaper articles and trudging through cemeteries across NSW culminated in a list of 103 additional names,” Mr Fallon said.
During the ceremony, Governor Beazley unveiled individual memorial plaques to commemorate the service and sacrifice of each of the recovered men and women.
They will be located in the Kearsley Remembrance Garden that has been established by the committee to honour local service personnel.
“It is a fitting tribute to these selfless residents that the Governor visited their hometown and paid her respects to the significant contribution they made to the ongoing development of our nation both at home and abroad,” Mr Fallon said.
Military service is an important part of the social fabric of Kearsley and Abernethy with many local families farewelling loved ones who have answered the call to duty in different theatres of war.
“Uncovering these service personnel and sharing their stories has had an immense impact on our community,” he said.
“There are local families who weren’t even aware of their ancestor’s service until we delved deep into the nation’s history books.
“Now they’re bursting with pride knowing their ancestor was instrumental to the defence of Australia during World War II.”
From the 103 individuals honoured during the ceremony, 83 served with the Australian Army, 17 with the Royal Australian Air Force and three with the Royal Australian Navy.
Descendants from across Australia attended the ceremony to pay their respects to those ancestors who had answered the call to duty.
“The real tragedy is that these veterans are no longer with us,” Mr Fallon said.
“The purpose of our commemoration project is to ensure they are honoured publicly.
“They may be gone but their contribution and sacrifice will be with our community forever.”
Three of the 103 servicemen and women died as a result of their service during World War II, including Driver James Ridgely of Abernethy who passed away from malaria upon his return home from the front.
Driver Ridgely served with the 53rd Battalion of the Australian Army in Papua New Guinea, with the jungle environment affecting his health.
“His family was ecstatic upon his return home to Abernethy,” Mr Fallon said.
“They thought he was safe.
“Sadly, the health complications he acquired during his service crept up on him at home and took his life away.”
Driver Ridgely’s death was recognised by the Australian Government as being as a result of his war service and was buried at Aberdare Cemetery with full military honours.