Words taken from those by Colonel Terry Beaton (Retd) RAEME; supplied by Eltham District Historical Society.
75th Anniversary World War II Memorial. Photo supplied by Julia Drew
Words taken from those by Colonel Terry Beaton (Retd) – RAEME; supplied by Eltham District Historical Society. Photos by Jim Connor.
Seventy-eight years ago, people were celebrating survival from their greatest challenge – the Second World War. Twenty five years earlier people had survived the rigors of the Great War and decimation by the Spanish Flu.
Annually, praise is given to names inscribed on local cenotaphs or memorials for those who never returned. Yet, not so much the disabled, wounded, diseased, emaciated, slaved as navies and tormented, who survived the horrors of war. Nobody goes to war and comes back the same person. Each is scarred in their own way, though externally they may not show it. Beyond family and others close, most were not seen as heroes.
Consequently, some years ago, a project was commenced to search local Nillumbik cemeteries to find those “forgotten heroes”.
Due to its historical and aesthetic aspect, set atop a hill surrounded by majestic Manna Gums, the first cemetery to be researched was Kangaroo Ground, where it was discovered that of over 2,000 burials, 196 veterans were found resting here. Yet more than two thirds of them, had no indication on their headstones or plaques of their service for their respective country in time of conflict. A responsibility that falls to the family, unless the veteran had died of a Department of Veterans’ Affairs accepted war caused disability, which entitled one to an official internment and maintenance of the site by the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG), but only if the family requests it.
The saddest day arose when it was discovered that a Burma Railway survivor was buried in an unmarked grave, possibly destitute and alone, along with a number of others in other unmarked graves.
This disappointing result then inspired an approach to the Eltham Cemetery Trust to conduct a review of their 10,000 burials. Two years work, found over 860 veterans (744 WW2 – of which 13 were women), and culminated with a grant to the Trust for the creation and display of a magnificent 75th Anniversary Commemoration Plaque. It was unveiled on 15-Aug-2020 to coincide with “Victory Over Japan” Day to mark the end of hostilities in WW2. It can now be said that at the Eltham Cemetery, their past service and sacrifice is now “permanently remembered and no longer forgotten”.
The research referred to above was largely done by Terry and wife Sheila Beaton. Every year they place flag tributes (900 at last count) for ANZAC Day at the Eltham, Diamond Creek, Queenstown (St Andrews) and Kangaroo Ground cemeteries. “Terry and Sheila’s research has added a valuable layer of history to the Nillumbik area and it encourages new and positive relationships between members of our community and the cemeteries within the Shire” – Julia Drew, General Manager at Eltham Cemetery.