John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher host World War I research workshops at Kurri Library

This November marks the Centenary of Armistice and Kurri Kurri Library is starting its activities early, with two research workshops to be held this month.

Local historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher will host the workshops on April 23 and 30.

Gillam and Fletcher are working on a book on Kurri Kurri’s service during World War I called No Shirkers from Kurri: The Great War experience of one Australian town.

It follows their 2017 book “You Can’t Fight, You’re a Girl!”, which told the story of Kurri Kurri woman Maud Butler, who dressed as a boy and stowed away on a troop ship in an attempt to fight in the war.

Workshop attendees are encouraged to research the service history of local World War I soldiers, whether it be their own family members or a name from a local memorial.

Attendees will receive tuition in creating a soldier’s profile by sourcing information from the pages of the AIF Project, the files of the National Archives of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and Red Cross files.

Gillam said he discovered that in July 1926, 30 crates of medals and recipient records from Sydney were returned to the Army Records Office Melbourne. The weight of this load was estimated at 2.5 tonnes.

Two years later the Sydney Morning Herald stated: “More than 73,000 war service medals still await claimants at the Base Records Office of Victoria Barracks Sydney, although it is more than nine years since the war ended”.

A further 60,000 were returned to storage in Victoria their rightful owners either ‘untraceable’ or unwilling to accept them.

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent is encouraging locals to come along to these research workshops.

“There is potential to uncover unknown local service histories and even unclaimed service medals which would be a fantastic discovery,” he said.

“If you decide to come along, you won’t go home empty handed as you’ll be given a detailed handout to allow you to continue your research at home.”

The workshops are free and will run from 10am to noon. Call Kurri Kurri Library on 4937 1638 to book your place.