Local students play role in commemorating local WWI Diggers

Students from Nowra and Greenwell Point public schools have taken part in a history making project.

The students collected soil from the two local locations as part of the Anzac Memorial Centenary Project.

The NSW Office for Veterans Affairs and the Nowra RSL Sub-Branch hosted the two events on Friday (November 10) at the Nowra Memorial Gates in Junction Street and Anzac Park, Greenwell Point.

Students helped in taking soil sample at both locations, which will be incorporated into a new exhibition in the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park Sydney.

Soil is being collected from close to 1700 towns of enlistment for the First World War.

The walls in the Hall of Service will display the names of the towns, suburbs and settlements across NSW where men and women enlisted from for WWI.

Alongside each place name will be displayed a sample of soil, collected from each listed locale.

Shoalhaven City Councillor Mark Kitchener talks to Greenwell Point Public School students at Anzac Park.

Shoalhaven City Councillor Mark Kitchener talks to Greenwell Point Public School students at Anzac Park.

Former surveyor general Paul Harcombe, who undertook the local collections for Veterans Affairs said it was a great chance for the local students to be part of history.

“These samples will be placed in the Hall of Service for all to see,” he said.

Talking to Nowra public students, all of whom at least one parents is a defence member based at HMAS Albatross, at the Nowra Memorial Gates he said Nowra was a significant recruiting area.

“There are 380 names on the Nowra War Memorial Gates,” he said.

“Eighty-four of those paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not make it home.

“It is the centenary of Anzac. Across Australia 41,600 volunteered for World War I. Many came from places around NSW including Nowra. More than 60,000 never came home, that’s almost twice the population of Nowra.

“This soil will be part of the Hyde Park Memorial. For those soldiers who didn't come home, there will now be a sample of soil from their hometown on display with a plaque as a permanent memorial.”

Nowra Public School vice-captain Dylan Johnstone and Carly Davis collect the samples at Nowra with former surveyor general Paul Harcombe, who undertook the local collections for Veterans Affairs.

Nowra Public School vice-captain Dylan Johnstone and Carly Davis collect the samples at Nowra with former surveyor general Paul Harcombe, who undertook the local collections for Veterans Affairs.

The Nowra Showground was the starting point for the South Coast Waratah Recruitment March in 1915. Fifty men left Nowra, marching for Sydney as part of the recruitment drive. Along the way, the group visited towns and villages, recruiting volunteers and by the time they reached Sydney their numbers had swelled to almost 120.

A re-enactment commemorating the centenary of the Waratah march was held in 2015.

Read more: 100th Anniversary Waratah March Re-enactment | Video

Nowra Public vice-captain Dylan Johnstone and Carly Davis collected the samples at Nowra.

Dylan said it was special to be involved in the project.

“It is great to be part of a project that commemorates the centenary of Anzac,” he said “and to have our soil samples on display as part of the permanent memorial.”

Nowra RSL members Barry Tait, Spike Jones and John Bailey, along with Shoalhaven City Councillor Mark Kitchener also attended and took part in the ceremonies.

Soil has already been taken at Numbaa and Longreach with further Shoalhaven samples to be taken at Bomaderry and Jervis Bay (Huskisson).