Historians take WWI soldiers to the streets
With the Kurri Kurri Centenary of Armistice street parade just over a week away, a unique project has connected local soldiers to the streets they resided on.
Based off the original town plan and enlistment records, historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher have identified, by street, 435 local WWI soldiers and their fate, producing posters that have been attached to the street poles to pinpoint the addresses given at time of enlistment.
“We wanted to produce a story that you can look at and identify with,” Mr Gillam said.
“At the moment these names are on memorials that don’t get looked at, or get a looked at once a year.”
With the number of enlistments representing 10 per cent of the town’s population and 60 per cent of its manhood at the time, the project drives home the impact the war had on Kurri Kurri. 80 men were killed overseas, while another 148 were medically discharged.
Mr Gillam and Ms Fletcher have discovered that around half were wounded, but it is not known how many perished after returning home either as a result of physical or mental illness obtained while serving.
Ms Fletcher said those soldiers suffered from the same impacts that soldiers experience today, but societal taboos prevented them from being recorded.
“If you’re coming back unscathed, you’re actually coming back with bronchitis or tuberculosus and all sorts of mental health problems, which is no different to soldiers today,” she said.
From the available information they have written another book, No Shirkers From Kurri, which details pre-war life in the town and enlistments to create the town’s WWI story. The compilation required trawling through 15,000 pages of research.
“This was the most horrible thing I’ve had to write because it’s so graphic,” Mr Gillam said.
“It’s just tragedy after tragedy.”
Their research will culminate in a street parade around Kurri Kurri Public School on Friday, October 26. The parade will begin at 11:30am, with the school to host an open day with themed displays. Parade participants will include students, indigenous elders, uniformed serving personnel, local miners, descendants, and community groups. There will also be a Tiger Moth flypast.