OUR CURRENT PROJECTS
At Port Pirie cemetery cenotaph on 27 July 2019, Headstone member Leading Seaman Michael Blakemore reveals the plaques of Lance Corporal Leslie Simpson, who was awarded the Military Medal, and Private Albert Sjostrom. Albert's great-niece, Coralie Sjostrom, and her son, Rob, look on, deeply touched that he is now remembered.
ABC News item: what GG Sir Peter Cosgrove said about us (Tas)
ABC News: about us on Anzac Day (SA)
Click on the page to read a great article in the Sunday Mail's Insight supplement
Our inaugural South Australian project was at Port Pirie cemetery. The grave was was dedicated on Remembrance Day in 2017. Earlier in the year a volunteer had researched the 22,000 graves of the entire cemetery — a feat that was broadcast on Channel 7 News. A member of the McVicar family contacted us: they knew Private Archibald McVicar's remains were in the cemetery, but not where.
Learning by doing
Seven months later, research had been done, eligibility confirmed, and a dedication was organised. Many gratified relatives of Private McVicar came to the ceremony from around Australia. The whole project was undertaken by our (now) President John Brownlie and Vice President Neil Rossiter, who at that stage did not have the support of any other volunteers. Now with 30 members, we are building on that experience.
It is amazing to see the enthusiasm and resources that come forward in a community, and how people will engage immediately in such a noble project and join together to achieve results. John and Neil began to think of our group as a catalyst for people coming together and achieving great things. Members of the local community, and especially the soldier's descendants, have found these acknowledgements of long-forgotten soldiers truly rewarding, and have encouraged us to expand our scope.
In July, we dedicated two more new headstones and two commemorative plaques at Port Pirie. There are 20 more such projects there, plus three at Kimba and one each at Berri and Naracoorte. Several cemeteries in Adelaide are bearing results:
for example, we have identified 14 unmarked graves at North Road cemetery and a similar number at Cheltenham. We're researching many service and cemetery records, both urban and country.
Would you like to join in? We'd love to hear from you — we have many rewarding roles to choose from, and the time you spend is entirely up to you.
Whether or not you would like to join us, our free Searcher Guide outlines what's involved in researching and tracing unmarked graves. We also have documents that you can adapt to record your own "journey". Click here for more about the Guide.
Although we refer to "soldiers", we are also alert to finding nurses who may lie in unmarked graves. We also seek and find sailors. Since the RAAF had not been formed, members of the Australian Flying Corps were soldiers.
Not just soldiers
Special thanks, Port Pirie!
Gail Swanton, of Port Pirie RSL, has been a tireless helper. Dept of Correctional Services staff and inmates cast the headstones in concrete and stored them. The Hon. Terry Stephens MLC, then SA Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans' Affairs, was very enthused, paying personally for a headstone (click here for his speech about the project). Ms Kendall Jackson gave new meaning to "hard work". The mayor and staff of Port Pirie Regional Council have been supportive in many ways. Our dedication ceremonies have been made more memorable by the young men and women of 414 Army Cadets Unit, Port Pirie, serving as the catafalque party. Our sponsors' support has been invaluable.
Thank you to the many other people who made this first project so successful!