The Stanthorpe Remembers project is dedicated to telling the stories of the men of Stanthorpe, Australia, who lost their lives during World War I. Stanthorpe, located in Southern Queensland, is the central town of a region known as the Granite Belt.
The project became a six-year journey of researching the 39 soldiers remembered with honour on the Stanthorpe World War I memorials. The goals of the Stanthorpe Remembers project were straightforward; firstly to identify, and secondly to tell the story behind the simple list of initials and surnames recorded on the local memorials.
For some of the soldiers, this task was quite straightforward. A review of the Australian Imperial Force service records held by the National Archives of Australia identified easily a soldier with the surname on the memorials who had a definitive link to the Granite Belt.
For others, such as Private James Fitzgerald, reviewing each of the service records of soldiers with the same surname who died in World War I revealed no such obvious links. James was finally identified by a short reference in his battalion’s embarkation roll to him working as a stockman near Stanthorpe prior to enlisting.
Carved into the Stone of Remembrance in every Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery are the words “Their Name Liveth for Evermore”. Rudyard Kipling suggested this phrase from the King James Bible as being a fitting inscription for the many memorials built in the aftermath of what was then known simply as the Great War. The 39 stories are intended to provide a lasting record to help ensure the local men are remembered as more than just names.
The death of 39 local men no doubt had a devastating effect on the small community of the Granite Belt. Bart Ziino wrote:
Sixty thousand Australians died in the Great War of 1914-18. Those who mourned them experienced loss at a remove from the battlefields and the graves of their dead. Mourning lost sons, husbands, friends and lovers, whose bodies were buried half a world away, theirs was a distant grief. (Ziino 2007, 1)
Recognising this ‘distant grief’, Peter McLady, on behalf of the Granite Belt community, has placed to date a wreath on 36 of the 39 graves and memorials of the local men. These graves and memorials are located across France, Belgium, Turkey, Malta and Germany. The remaining graves are located in the Palestinian territories and northeastern Egypt.
The next chapter of this journey involves developing this website so that the story of each soldier and the battlefields of the Western Front can be accessed easily. It is intended this format will encourage the stories to evolve as more information regarding these men and places becomes available.