During NAIDOC Week the Australian War Memorial recognised several Aboriginal men who fought in World War I by including them on the Roll of Honour for Aboriginal servicemen.
Henry Westerway, a tin miner from Tingha, was taken prisoner-of-war in the Battle of Fromelles and was one of only 1000 Aboriginal men that fought in World War I.
His brother George has also been recognised as he enlisted however he did not see battle overseas.
Henry’s grandson Warren Smith will deliver a presentation about the discovery of his grandfather’s story at the Fromelles Association of Australia’s annual general meeting at Cessnock Ex-Services Club this Saturday (July 22).
“The Battle of Fromelles was Australia’s worst casualty rate of any war with over 5500 men injured or killed in the two-day fight,” Mr Smith said.
“My grandfather was fortunate to survive but was taken POW spending most of the war in prison camps in Germany.
“He nearly died and after the war was taken to England for rehabilitation where he met his wife and then returned to Australia to start a new life.
“Many Aboriginal men were inspired to go to war because they were treated as equals but on their return to Australia were again segregated.
“My grandfather was fortunate to make a fresh break with his new English wife starting a life in Sydney and hid the facts of his background.
“I am fairly certain my mother never knew of her ancestry as it was never mentioned while I was growing up and it is only doing research that I discovered he was a very special man in Australian wartime history.
“It is sad to think his grave was left unmarked and unvisited for 75 years in Macquarie Park Cemetery, Sydney before being recently discovered.
“The Australia War Graves have now recognised him so that future generations know the important role Henry played in our history.”
Lambis Englezos will also talk at Saturday’s meeting about his involvement in the discovery of a mass grave of 250 unnamed soldiers at Fromelles and the use of DNA matching with descendants so names can be put to those soldiers.
Fromelles Association of Australia president Royce Atkinson said the primary reason its meetings are held in Cessnock and the Hunter is there is a high level of interest in Fromelles in the area.
“Whilst relatives of Fromelles soldiers live all over Australia, and the world for that matter, we have found that folk from the Sydney area are quiet willing to travel here for our meetings.
Mr Atkinson’s uncle Matthew Hepple – who lived at Kearsley – was killed in action at Fromelles and identified in 2011. The association held its first meetings at Kearsley Hall.
All are welcome to attend the presentation at Cessnock Ex-Services Club on Saturday. Doors will open at 10.30am for an 11am start and entry is by gold coin donation.
RSVP to Royce on 4975 363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.