FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce has congratulated the Kurrajong Re-enactment Committee on its success in receiving a grant of $10,853 from the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program.
Mr Joyce said the Kurrajongs, a group of 114 men from Inverell who left their homes, friends and family on January 12, 1916 to fight in France have been acknowledged as the single largest body of volunteers from a country centre.
“More and more Australians now look to a forebear who served in the military in either WWI or WW2 or any of the other conflicts the country had been involved with,” he said.
“The connection to this event is becoming more pronounced rather than less.
“It has a deep commemorative and in some instances almost spiritual connection for so many people as a reflection of whom they are.”
Most of the Kurrajongs ended up in the famed 33 Battalion, also known as New England’s Own, who fought with distinction at the battle of Messines and right through to the battle of Villers?Bretonneux in April 1918 where the advancing tide of the German counter-offensive was halted.
Committee president, Kim Blomfield said the news of the grant was “amazing” and along with a similar-sized contribution from the Inverell RSL-RSM, the 10-day celebration to be called Kurrajong Week will be held from January 8 to 17 next year.
She said the core of the organising committee included only nine members – of which six were direct descendants of those who enlisted as Kurrajongs.
In fact Mrs Blomfield’s great-uncle, Alan Mather, who enlisted aged 36 and who was killed on the Western front was one of the last men to be identified by DNA. Private Mather was re-interred with full military honours at the Prowse Point Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Ploegsteert, Belgium in July 2010.
Mrs Blomfield said when archaeologists unearthed Private Mather’s remains, all his kit was intact and his fingers were still wrapped around his service rifle.
“His pack and his possessions were never pilfered, so his discovery was important for the historians,” she said.
The first contingent of 114 Kurrajongs took a train to Narrabri and then ended up in Armidale where the 33rd Battalion was formed and received its initial training before embarking on the SS Marathon in May 1916 for the voyage to the UK and further training at Lark Hill. The troops were then transferred to the Western Front in later November that year, enduring a terrible winter before their first major action at the Battle of Messines in July 1917.
More information on the Kurrajongs can be found at www.inverellremembers.org.au
The Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program is available to each Federal Member of Parliament to support projects in their electorate commemorating the First World War.