Scores turn out to honour Strathfield's heroes at new memorial wall

Mike Smith, Allan Chapple, Marlene Doran, Scott Farlow, Jodi McKay and Craig Laundy at today's ceremony

There were tears aplenty, poetry and amazing family reunions when Strathfield commemorated its war heroes today.

Scores turned out - many decked with rows of medals of their own or belonging to members of their family - to see the new Davey Square memorial wall officially dedicated.

The astonishing story of how 339 plaques honouring our warriors from World War I, World War II and the Korean campaign came to be stored under the bed of local historian Marlene Doran was revealed to many for the first time.

Ms Doran, along with Reid Federal MP Craig Laundy, local RSL officials Michael Smith and Allan Chapple and Strathfield Council staff battled to get a government grant which allowed them to be placed in a new dedicated wall at Davey Square.

Yesterday, many relatives saw their fathers and grandfathers honoured for the first time.  Some brought their young children so they could understand what families went through.  Others simply brought their stories of bravery and pride.

One family of six travelled all the way from Adelaide to be at the servive, holding photographs of their relative Max Brown. 

His plaque contained the kind of historical conundrum that kept RSL Historian Mike Smith awake at night. The plaque said he died at Montevideo.  In truth, he died aboard the Montevideo Maru, a ship used to transport prisoners that was sunk resulting in the downing of a large number of Australian prisoners of war.

Mr Smith's detective work made the link.

Mr Laundy spoke for all when he told the crowd: "The wonderful Homebush-Strathfield RSL sub branch now has a spiritual home.

"This area has something to be proud of.  In a hundred or two hundred years of time, your can tell your grand kids and their grand kids that you were at the opening of this commemoration, for what is an amazing special day in the history of our Strathfield community."

Member for Strathfield Jodi McKay, former Mayor of Strathfield and MLC Scott Farlow, Strathfield Mayor Sang Ok, Deputy Mayor Andrew Soulos, and councillors Daniel Bott, Helen McLucas, Raj Datta, and Stephanie Kokkolis attended along with numerous local officials of the RSL and principles from local schools.

The back story of how Strathfield was able to give its war heroes a new home was told by Craig Laundy, who headed up the committee celebrating the centenary of Anzac.

When the federal government announced grants as part of the Anzac program, Strathfield Council applied for funding to repair its war memorial and find a new home for the plaques from Homebush Strathfield RSL sub branch.

Ms Doran helmed the project, and Strathfield Council staff rallied round to help. She kept in touch with the families who flew from various parts of Australia to see their relatives plagues on memorial.

One family came all the way from South Australia to see their uncle honoured.

“I hope that everybody in NSW notices what Strathfield Council can do and what people power can do," said Ms Doran, who has an Order of Australia.

"I had so many widows ringing me to know about the plaques from Homebush RSL. That stirred me to think that people didn’t know that they were under safe keeping.

"Then the federal government came up with the grant and I wondered if we could do this. With the help of federal government, Craig Laundy and the RSL we accomplished it, and I am very proud of it.

"Now I can come here and sit too. I am very honoured to make so many people happy. I’d like to continue with this, I would like people to give me some more memories so that I can put it in a book form.”

Mr Laundy admitted it almost didn't happen, after he invited the Veterans Affairs Minister to see Davey Square only to be told no money was available for new memorials.

In the end and under pressure, the minister found a way to give Strathfield Council $21,500.

Ms Doran championed a scheme to have hundreds of poppies knitted so there was one for every plaque. today, a blaze of red stood for the love and affection from people who volunteered knitting them -  many were created with the help of Strathfield Girl Guides.

Many guests bought poppies with a donation of $10 towards Marlene’s future archival projects for Strathfield.

 

See Facebook.com/ourstrathfield for a picture display of today's ceremony

 


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