November 9, 2018
On Friday night, the culmination of four years work by historian Liz Caffery will be unveiled … a special book that aims to ensure the memories of Nanango’s World War I soldiers and nurses are never forgotten.
“The Memory Tree” will be launched at a special Armistice event in Tara’s Hall at Nanango RSL Club, with the relatives of many of those mentioned in the photobook present.
Guest speakers will include Gabrielle Holmes, Mitchell Hunter, Peter Mangan and Daun Clapperton.
The book tells the story of Nanango’s involvement in the war in chronological order, from the earliest enlistments through to the training, troop ships and eventual bloody battles in France and Belgium.
The tales are accompanied with historic and personal photographs as well as scans of original postcards and letters back home.
There are stories of heroism and tragedy, military honours, prisoners-of-war …
“The Memory Tree” was produced with funding acquired by the Nanango Tourism and Development Association (NaTDA) from the State Government’s Anzac Centenary grants program.
NaTDA Past President Barry Green said it was the final chapter in a body of work that began in 2014 to recognise the service of Nanango residents in World War I.
“In 2014, Liz Caffery put together a powerful Powerpoint presentation centred around the battlegrounds where our South Burnett soldiers served,” Barry said.
Local residents Daun Clapperton and Robyn Peterson then put together an online database recording the World War I service of all South Burnett servicemen and women.
“Liz contributed 20 stories to the published database book, ‘We Will Remember Them’,” Barry said.
He said “The Memory Tree” was fitting tribute to the sacrifices made by so many people a century ago.
“It not only tells the war story of many soldiers and nurses from Nanango but also reveals their legacies.
“But more than that, it tells of a town immersed in patriotism, doing all it could to support the war effort. It is a wonderful publication.”
Liz had a strong personal reason for undertaking the project.
“My own family has a link to a World War I soldier. My great-uncle Eric died at Passchendaele on October 9, 1917, and his body was never found,” she said.
“In 2008, I had the privilege of visiting the battlefields of the Western Front with my brother, sister and niece.
“It truly felt like a pilgrimage as we followed in Eric’s footsteps. We loitered on the edge of flourishing corn fields in Belgium where countless soldiers perished in a sea of sucking mud; we picked red Flanders poppies which symbolised to us the senseless slaughter of thousands, including Eric.
“We gazed at the countless names inscribed on the Menin Gate and stood in silent reverence in the immaculate war cemeteries where row upon row of white headstones glistened in the sunlight.
“We wandered through golden wheat fields in the Somme once riddled with trenches.
“It was all indescribably poignant and my inability to comprehend the enormity and atrocity of war was unbearable.
“I was profoundly moved by my experiences visiting the battlefields in Belgium and France in 2008, then again in 2014 when I accompanied the South Burnett delegation to the Netherlands for the Patrick Tiernan memorial.
“I was at the Menin Gate again in October 2017 with my brother and sister on the 100th anniversary of Eric’s death.
“After my visit to the battlefields, I made a pledge to honour the words of King George V who wrote on the memorial scroll given to families of men who died: ‘Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten‘.
“I decided to tell the stories of the men and women from my Nanango community who served in that dreadful war as a legacy to pass on to the next generation – a legacy which speaks of valour rather than horror, of dignity rather than brutality, of victory rather than tragedy.
“I wanted to ensure that our Nanango community does not forget our Anzacs.”
Liz began her task with the 393 names on the Nanango Cenotaph but as the project continued, more and more names were unearthed.
“Researching in Trove for farewells of men who enlisted, I came across names that weren’t on the Cenotaph. I followed up to ensure they actually did serve,” she said.
There were also names or people born in Nanango, but not on the Cenotaph; and ex-soldiers who came to live in Nanango after the war.
The 50 individuals whose stories are highlighted – some detailed, some in brief – include familiar South Burnett surnames such as Beitzel, Burns, Buttsworth, Calvert, Castree, Cross, Hoult, Hunter, Mangan, Perrett, Springate …
And tales of brothers such as the Cavanaghs, Lougheeds and Nystroms, and the three Wilson sisters (all nurses).
Many still have relatives living in the local area.
“We had Nanango soldiers in every major World War I battle: Gallipoli, Fromelles, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Hill 60, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux, Hamel, Amiens and Palestine,” Liz said.
“The only significant battle where we could not locate a Nanango trooper was the Battle of Beersheba.”
Liz said she had to pay tribute to the photographers, past and present without whom a photobook was impossible.
“Remarkably, war photographers were present in astonishing and dangerous locations – from the landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, to the battlefield wastes of the Somme and Flanders,” she said.
“The Australian official war correspondent, and later official historian, Charles Bean, took many photographs.
“He also commissioned Frank Hurley and George Wilkins as official photographers to the AIF in July 1917. The World War I images have been sourced through Australian War Memorial websites where the photographs are now in the public domain.
“Individual soldier photos were also integral to the essence of the book.
“These were obtained from family members or from the South Burnett database.
“Some of those were originally sourced from the collection of nearly 30,000 Queensland soldier portraits taken by Talma Studios during the war and published in ‘The Queenslander’ newspaper.”
Many of the historical photos of Nanango used in the book were taken by Ernest Hannaford who arrived in Nanango in 1918.
So where did the name “The Memory Tree” come from?
As part of the Anzac 2015 commemorations, students from the three Nanango schools – Nanango State School, Nanango State High School and St Patrick’s Catholic School – were invited to select the name of a Nanango soldier or nurse and write a message on a little wooden cross with a red poppy.
These were placed under a tree near the cenotaph, labelled The Memory Tree, on April 24 in place for the Anzac services next day.
“Nanango photographer Clive Lowe took this wonderful photo of two little boys, Jaxon and Dexter Carvolth, sitting under The Memory Tree, after the dawn service on April 25, 2015. Clive kindly permitted publication of his photo,” Liz said.
“The title and the cover of the book epitomise the message of the book … to remember, to pass on the Spirit of Anzac legacy to younger generations.”
“Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten.”
Copies of “The Memory Tree” will be presented to Nanango Library, Heritage House in Yarraman, Karinya, the State Library, Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington, Member for Maranoa David Littleproud, and local schools.
Copies will also be available at a cost of $130 (if 20 orders are made).
The book launch on Friday night is the first in a series of Armistice special events being held this weekend: