Students walk in our soldiers’ footsteps

BOMBALA High School students are remembering local heroes who fought in World War I with a commemorative book to be released next year. 

The eight students involved in project will retrace the footsteps of 129 soldiers from Bombala that served in the war. 

Under the guidance of English and history teacher Caitlin Morrison the students will use military and public archives to write individual biographies for the soldiers. 

Ms Morrison said the experience of uncovering the soldiers stories will be a great task for the students. 

“The 129 soldiers names have been collected from the Bombala Cenotaph,” said Ms Morrison. 

“The book is not just about historical research but its uncovering who these men really were, what they did before they went to war and when they returned, if they did return.” 

“Some of the students have relatives who fought in World War I, so it’s really been a great learning experience for them.” 

During World War I, the Australian Army’s enlistment age was 21 years old or 18 years old with the consent of a parent or guardian.

Many of the soldiers that travelled from Bombala to the battlefields were not much older than the students involved in the project and Ms Morrison said that this has been an eye-opening experience for the students.

“So far we are at the beginning of our research but we have uncovered that there were a couple of soldiers who went missing over Christmas one year,” Ms Morrison said. 

“They returned again after a month of so and we all thought that was interesting that they were so young and just wanted to enjoy themselves.

“I think it’s an example of that larrikinism that Australian soldiers were renowned for during the First World War.”

The Bombala High students have began research of the military records and will commence further investigations throughout the year. 

Among their research the students have already uncovered details of the life of one solider James Lawrence Way, who fought in the 6th Field Ambulance Australian Army Medical Corps. 

“He was awarded a Military Medal for bravery in the field before he was killed in action at the age of 23,” said Ms Morrison. 

“He is now buried at the Hooge Crater Cemetery in Belgium.” 

The students hope to have their book published in time for Anzac Day 2015 to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of World War I. 

“In July we will be appealing to the public for any information they have on those soldiers but there is still a lot of research to do before then.” 

Ms Morrison visited the France last year visiting the Somme, Bullecourt and Fromelles battlefields. 

“I was very lucky to experience the Western Front and learnt a lot there,” Ms Morrison said. 

“With World War I we often only think about Gallipoli but many Australian soldiers fought in France” 

Ms Morrison was selected as one of two teachers to accompany students to the Somme, Bullecourt Fromelles battlefields along with selected children from around the state. 

Ms Morrison is bringing a little bit of her Western Front discoveries back to the class room with plans for students to experience a modified version of life in a World War I trench in the coming year. 

“Later this year we plan to involved years nine, 11 and 12 in digging a World War I trench on property the school usually uses for agriculture,” Ms Morrison said. 

“We are hoping to do it when it’s a little muddy and wet so the children get to experience conditions similar to what soldiers would have experienced.” 

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