By Reidun Berntsen
The spirit of Remembrance Day started early in the community this year with the launch of ‘A Long March from Lithgow’ last Sunday. The Book launch attracted a crowd of approximately 120 people; including State member for parliament Paul Toole and Federal member John Cobb. The ceremony featured renditions of heartfelt war songs and poetry, as well as the chilling but reflective ‘Last Post’. The Ceremony not only launched the book, but also paid homage to our local young soldiers; most of who never got to come home.
‘A Long March to Lithgow’ features the stories of 1307 people from Lithgow who served in World War One. The book was compiled and written by Helen Taylor of The Lithgow & District Family History Society Inc.
The idea for the book sprung back in 2012 when Helen and Cecily McCarten were sitting in the resource centre. “Cecily had found a postcard amongst her great uncle’s belongings, it had been sent to him from France and the last line read ‘good bye old pal’, Cecil. Cecily was striving to find the connection between Cecil Hart and her great uncle Perc McCully so the search was on, and this, coupled with the complete fascination I have had for MY great uncle, George Mara, who was wounded twice and then died eleven days after the Armistice was signed from broncho pneumonia, Cecily simply said, ‘let’s write a book’, and so it began,” Helen said.
Helen and her colleagues have spent the past two-and-a-half years researching and compiling the information of each and every person in the book. “Depending on information available, some have a small paragraph and some have several pages. Of this number there were a total of 246 who were killed or died from disease and 12 who were taken prisoner of war,” Helen said.
Another reason Helen decided to write the book was her concern that the ANZAC spirit would cease to exist with her generation, simply due to future generations a lacking knowledge. “The main object of this project was to obtain as many records of our local service men and women as possible, so they could be placed on the shelves of our resource centre for future generations to see,” Helen said.
‘A Long March from Lithgow’ is guaranteed to hit home for anybody who reads it, whether they are related to anybody who served in World War One or not. “Writing each of these stories has taught me so much, so much about the atrocities that occurred and the conditions these soldiers had to endure, the mental anguish they suffered but also the camaraderie between them, and the mateship they shared. The Australian soldiers were held in such high esteem and are still honoured today, this is something we need to pass on to our future generations and be proud of what these men and women achieved so we, the future generations of Australia could have a better life,” Helen said.
This book is something to be cherished by the local community, not only because of our brave ANZACS; but also because of the determination, the heart and soul and the long hours that have been put into creating an easy to access information source on our fallen soldiers.
Helen Taylor wishes to thank: Lithgow industrial printing for their assistance in the publication of the book. Helen Tracy for editing the book. Jan Saundercock for her writing and research. Danny Whitty, Kathy Brennan, Sandra Haley and Marcie Farr for proofreading and members of The Lithgow & District Family History Society Inc.
Helen Taylor and Dennis Chamberlain hold A long March from Lithgow