Working party looking for faces of war ahead of 100-year commemorations

GALLIPOLI might be the birthplace of the Anzac legend, but researchers say there is much more to World War I.

The World War I Centenary Working Party was formed three years ago in preparation for 2014-2018, the centenary years of WWI.

Central West Libraries manager Jan Richards said the largest effort so far had been compiling information on all the known servicemen and nurses from national archives, commemorative plaques scattered across Orange, and the next of kin.

So far, the list includes 1816 servicepeople from Orange and its surrounds, including those who were born in the area, enlisted in the area, or otherwise had significant ties to Orange.

Of those, 207 never came home. 

The job is not over yet, with residents asked to contribute stories of the home front in Orange during the war and after, and artefacts such as photos, letters and diaries.

Mrs Richards said locations of little-known plaques would also assist the effort.

“Some haven’t been located yet,” she said.

“We need to have the human element - we want to create this picture at the end of it all, about the impact of war on this community.

“It’s about more than just Gallipoli - many more people died on the Western Front.

“It’s about recognising them and the impact of war on the community.”

During the coming years, there will be re-enactments of the Cooee March from Gilgandra to Orange and Armistice Day, and a memorial drive mapped out including key memorials, cemeteries and other war-related locations in Orange.

Mrs Richards said she hoped an exhibition would tie in with the opening of the new museum in 2016.

Efforts will also be made to recognise John Hamilton, who received the Victoria Cross for his efforts on the battlefield.

“He’s virtually unknown, which is very sad and we want to pay tribute to these people,” Mrs Richards said.

Other community organisations will also be encouraged to host their own events to mark the centenary.

Working party chair and Orange City councillor Reg Kidd said Orange was one of the first councils in Australia to begin preparations.

“We want to get everything together and document and catalog everything for future generations,” he said.

To see the honour roll so far, visit centenaryww1orange.com.au.

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