Centenary of tears for Tasmania

Ken Clark, Jim Colville, Tony Bisdee and Bill Tewson at the Anzac Day dawn service

Ken Clark, Jim Colville, Tony Bisdee and Bill Tewson at the Anzac Day dawn service

Remembrance Day in November marks 100 years since the signing of the Armistice to end World War I, and Tasmanians this year have been remembering the terrible toll of the conflict on the island state.

In Tasmania, with a population of barely 190,000, 15,000 enlisted and nearly 3,000 were killed. Twice that number returned wounded.   

Unfortunately many plaques and honour boards from WWI and other conflicts are being lost as church buildings are closed and sold.

At this year’s Anzac Day Dawn Service in Bagdad, north of Hobart, Rev Jim Colville brought two memorials from local churches that had closed.

After the service they were presented to the RSL for display and safekeeping in the RSL Memorial Hall at Kempton.

One Memorial Board from Bagdad Uniting Church commemorates the grief of grandparents who lost three grandsons: Henry Eddington at the Somme in 1916; Ernest Bessier at Ypres in 1917 and Leslie Hyland at Warneton also in 1917.

Another memorial that had originally been placed in a congregational church near Jordan River, Pontville, commemorated Harry Hodgman, who was killed in 1915 at Gallipoli. The other name on the plaque is Alan Gunn Hodgman, 20, brother of Harry.  Alan died in 1917 at Messines. Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman is related to the two men. Harry Hodgman was buried at Lone Pine, but his brother Alan is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing at Ypres, Belgium. The memorial is dedicated to more than 55,000 missing British and Commonwealth servicemen, including 6,000 Australians.

“Often it took weeks before a family knew of the death of a son, and being buried overseas, most families never had the opportunity to visit the grave,” Jim said.

“For many, however, war had totally destroyed the body and they weren’t even left the solace of a known grave.”

At the Anzac Day Dawn Service, Jim shared the story of an elderly lady who every Sunday attended the Methodist Church in Glenorchy and sat in the same place.   

Directly above her on the wall was a plaque to a Charles Walton Stansall, a local preacher, who was killed on 10 September 1918, 62 days before the war ended.

Just before he enlisted in 1916 he and the faithful congregant had become engaged. She never married and until the day she died she wore the engagement ring he had given her.

At the service Jim wore the medals of his grandfather, James Colville. James lowered his age when he volunteered in World War I. He received the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In World War II he enlisted again but wouldn’t accept his World War II medals, (the Australian Service Medal 39/45 and the War Medal 39/45) as he was very upset at being discharged at nearly 68 years of age. Jim received these medals 50 years later.

The other three medals Jim wore were those of his wife’s father, Lisle Archard.

Lisle was fortunate to survive the war when shot over the heart on 1 September 1918. The bullet hit the whistle in his pocket, was deflected under the heart and out through his back.

On the Thursday before Anzac Day Jim was invited to unveil a plaque at the Bagdad Primary School commemorating the sacrifice of so many in what was believed to be the war to end all wars.   

This is located in a new and beautiful memorial garden funded by the Federal Government and donations. It was constructed with the help of volunteers and of many of the school children attending.

“It is pleasing to see a new generation who will carry on the traditions of Anzac Day into the future,” Jim said.

“In August of this year as chaplain I also participated in a moving service at Kempton, Tasmania.

“A memorial avenue of trees planted 100 years ago to remember soldiers who served from the surrounding areas was rededicated and this was also attended by many school children.”

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