Westwood’s first Anzac Day ceremony was held 21 years ago, on 25 April 1996.
It was organised by the Westwood Progress Association Inc to coincide with the dedication of the (then) newly erected Westwood War Memorial.
Fitzroy Shire Councillor Vince Reynolds was Master of Ceremonies and Pastor Dorothy Demack (of the Uniting Church) led the dawn service.
Official Guests included Mr Paul Marek, MHR, Member for Capricornia and Mr Jim Pearce, MLA, Member for Fitzroy, who delivered the address, and Councillor Mary Seierup, Mayor of the Fitzroy Shire, who read the Resolution. The first Central Queensland Light Horse Regiment, in period uniform, formed the catafalque party. Mr Ken Ellen read the Rolls of Honour. Miss Ruth Salecich (from the Capricornia Silver Band) played the Last Post, Reveille and Rouse on cornet.
PICTURED ABOVE: Ruth Salecich wearing her grandfather’s World War II medals, and Corporal John “Slim” Frankel, in the uniform of the first Central Queensland Light Horse Regiment. Corporal Frankel served in 32 Small Ship Squadron in Vietnam aboard AS3051 John Monash, also with 30 Terminal Squadron and 1st Australian Civil Affairs Unit. He died on 2 October 2004.
The ceremony was attended by about 80 people.
Among those present was 83-year-old Charles Lawrie, a former Air Force flying instructor, who was attending his very first Anzac Day ceremony. It was a special occasion for him. Mr Lawrie served during World War II at Archerfield in Brisbane and at Darwin between 1939 and 1944.
Westwood is a tiny town, 50 kilometres southwest of Rockhampton, in Central Queensland. At the 2011 Census, its population was 220. Westwood was the first town in Queensland gazetted by the newly established Queensland Government (after separation from New South Wales), on 23 May 1860. It was named by the Queensland Governor after “Westwood House”, the home of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and War in 1852.
Westwood’s Honour Rolls listed in the 1996 Order of Ceremony booklet comprised 30 local men who enlisted in World War I and 25 who enlisted in World War II.
For a small town like Westwood, these numbers, particularly those for World War I, are noteworthy. In the period 1914-1918, when Australia’s population was fewer than 5 million, around 420,000 Australians (mostly young men) enlisted for military service. This figure represents 38.7 per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 44 at the time.
On a national level, World War I had a huge impact on Australia’s population and psyche. By the end of the war, over 60,000 Australians had died, more than 155,000 were wounded in action and more than 430,000 suffered from sickness or non-battle injuries. Australia’s casualty rate (compared with total embarkations), at 64.8 per cent, was among the highest of any country engaged in World War I.
Of the 30 men listed in the Westwood World War I Roll of Honour, four (4) were killed in action in France or Belgium, three (3) died of wounds sustained on the battlefields of France or Belgium, and 8 men were discharged on medical grounds. These figures reveal the huge human and personal cost of World War I.
The four Westwood men killed in action in World War I were:
- Private Neil Henry EVANS, of the 52nd Battalion, who died in France on 4 September, 1916, aged 19.
- Private Andrew Wallace SMITH, of the 25th Battalion, who died in France on 14 November, 1916, aged 23.
- Private Percival John LITTLE, of the 4th Australian Machine Gun Company, who died in Belgium on 15 October, 1917.
- Private Thomas James COWAN, of the 52nd Battalion, who died in France on 24 April, 1918.
The three Westwood men who died during World War I as a result of wounds were:
- Private George Samuel MENYWEATHERS, of the 6/25th Battalion, who died in Australia on 9 September 1915.
- Private George William SAUNDERS, of the 58th Battalion, who died in Belgium on 25 September, 1917, aged 24.
- Private William LLOYD, of the 25th Battalion, who died in Belgium on 6 October, 1917, aged 20.
Medical discharges were granted to the following eight men:
- John William FLINT (5/01/1916)
- Thomas BEAUMONT (6/12/1916)
- George FRAZER (21/07/1917)
- John Frederick BURGESS (4/08/1917)
- Graham TRIFFITT (12/10/1917)
- Hugh Robert BARTLEM (30/11/1917)
- Henry John BARTLEM (29/10/1919)
- Freeman Percy COLLINS (1919).
Thomas BEAUMONT is one of the men listed in the Westwood World War I Roll of Honour.
Thomas was my great-uncle.
Thomas’ parents, Thomas Bloomfield and Elizabeth Beaumont, and his siblings, lived at Westwood during the late 1800s and early 1900s. I wrote about Thomas Bloomfield and Elizabeth (my great-grandparents) and their family in Mons: Whose house is that? (November 27, 2016).
Members of the Beaumont family operated horse and bullock teams out of Gladstone in the 1870s, and later between Westwood and Rockhampton and towns in Central Western Queensland. In the mid-1890s Thomas Bloomfield and Elizabeth Beaumont purchased a block of land about 2 miles (3 km) from Westwood, “Greenmount”, on which they built a family home. The family lived there until about 1912. Thomas’ younger brother, Donald, married Flora Jane Balchin at “Greenmount”, Westwood, on 26 April 1911.
I have written previously about Thomas Beaumont, in the postscript to my story Henry’s World War I Postcards to Flora (September 11, 2015).
Nevertheless, I will retell Thomas’ story here, as it reveals a little about how World War I impacted on one ordinary Central Queensland family.
• • • • •
Thomas (“Tommy”) BEAUMONT was my mother’s uncle, her father Donald’s older brother. Thomas enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Rockhampton on 11 January 1916. He was 32 years of age. He had never married.
Thomas was typical of the males in his family. He was tall (5’ 10½” or 179 cm) and thin. He weighed only 9st 5lb (57 kg) when he went for his medical examination prior to enlistment. He had a fair complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. I have never seen a photograph of Thomas. I found this information about him in his service records.
At enlistment, Thomas was assessed “fit for active service”. A member of the 52nd Battalion, he embarked at Sydney on 20 April 1916, bound for Egypt.
Unfortunately, not long after arriving in Egypt, Thomas came down with influenza. It was serious enough for him to be hospitalized at Suez, on 24 May 1916. He spent the next couple of months in hospital, with chronic bronchitis. He continued to lose weight, and became severely weak. By July 1916, he was assessed as medically unfit for active service. He was sent home to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on 3 August 1916.
Thomas’ service records give no indication as to what he did during the next few months, but he was discharged from the AIF on 6 December 1916. He returned home to his family.
My mother told me that Thomas took his own life after returning from the war.
Until recently, when I did some research on Thomas, I didn’t know much more about Thomas’ death. What I discovered is that Thomas arrived home on 12 December 1916 “in a sickly and depressed condition” and just 3 days later, at home, committed suicide. Sadly, as reported at the inquest into Thomas’ death, it was his mother Elizabeth who found him.
Thomas didn’t see active service. Maybe this is one reason for his depression. Although he was chronically ill he probably also felt like a failure. He was unable to live up to his expectations as a soldier. He wanted to serve his country, but he wasn’t able to.
For Thomas’ parents and his extended family, Thomas’ death must have been a severe blow. Thomas was just 33 years of age when he died.
• • • • •
Thomas’ story is neither heroic nor remarkable. It is simply tragic. It reminds us that war is tragic, and so often futile.
The Prayers of Intercession included in Westwood’s inaugural Anzac Day ceremony are pertinent, and I reproduce them here:
Leader: Loving Father, who gives life to all, we entrust to your keeping those who have died in the service of this country. Lord hear us.
All: Lord, hear our prayer.
Leader: We pray for all who suffer from the effects of war; grant them your peace and healing strength; and for those who in sadness recall lives lost; grant them comfort in the hope of resurrection. Lord, hear us.
All: Lord, hear our prayer.
Leader: May we be inspired by the determination of those who have served in the fight for freedom, justice and peace. Lord, hear us.
All: Lord, hear our prayer.
Leader: Loving Father, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Give your Spirit of peace to all people and remove from them the spirit that makes for war, that all may live as members of your family. Lord, hear us.
All: Lord, hear our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.
• • • • •
It’s amazing how life has its twists and turns. And surprises.
For the very first Anzac Day ceremony held at Westwood, on 25 April 1996, it was my daughter Ruth (aged 20 at the time) who played the Last Post, Reveille and Rouse. It was a great privilege for her to do so. Little did she know, when she accepted the invitation to play at the ceremony, her great-great-uncle (Thomas Beaumont) was among the local men who would be remembered at Westwood that day.
Westwood Progress Association Inc., 1996. Order of Service for the commemoration of Anzac Day. Unpublished booklet.
“Westwood’s first service”. In The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 1996, 26 April, page 23.
First World War 1914-18. Australian War Memorial. Online: https://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1/
Service Records. National Archives of Australia. Online: http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/explore/defence/service-records/
Roll of Honour. Australian War Memorial. Online: https://www.awm.gov.au/people/roll-search/roll_of_honour/
Westwood, Queensland. Wikipedia. Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westwood,_Queensland
“Death of Thomas Beaumont”. Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), Saturday 6 January 1917, page 14. Online: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/55167758
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