If you look at enough Great War memorials, it becomes apparent there is little uniformity in the way they are presented. Some list names in alphabetical order, others separate these by rank or in the order individuals enlisted. Before 1927 there was no national agency to collect the names of those who served or died in the war and their commemoration was left to local communities, who relied on what resources and information were available to them. Many of the earlier memorials, such as the Drummoyne Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (pictured) listed the names alphabetically, but then as the war dragged on, in the following years additional names were added at the end of each list.
The Drummoyne Honour Memorial was intended as a temporary measure. It was replaced by a permanent memorial near the entrance of what was then the Drummoyne Municipal Council Building. The structure took the form of a three-tier base with six Greek-style columns supporting a roof that surrounded a stone core, on which the names of the servicemen and women were inscribed. The memorial was unveiled on ANZAC day 1928. Similarly, the foundation stone of an enclosed memorial rotunda in Five Dock Park was laid in January 1923 and progressed as funds allowed.
Local residents applied to the Drummoyne Soldiers and Sailors Welfare Association to have their names included on the Honour Board. The names, however, do not accord with those on the memorials that replaced them. There are many more on the original list. Where the Committee estimated there would be 600 men “who heard their country’s call and responded”, more than 3,600 names are listed on the board.
The difference may be explained by the difficulty of determining who is a local. The application for enlistment (attestation) for example, asks the address of the next of kin, which was not necessarily where the serviceman lived. On the other hand, a name on a school honour roll, only shows that this person at some time attended that school, even if only briefly. Records such as place of birth, employment, church attendance or participation in a sporting or social club, are likewise inconclusive.
It was not unheard of for men to enlist under a different name – perhaps to evade paying maintenance to a wife and dependent or because they were under 21 years and needed their parents’ consent to enlist. Others simply availed themselves of an opportunity to assume a new identity. To compound the difficulty of tracing these men (mostly men), so that they become more than just “names” was the practice of listing only the initials of first names. At the time there were quite a few names with the same initials as well as identical common names. The only way to clearly establish identity is to trace the serviceman or woman through the mother’s maiden name. This too, is not always successful.
One of the most valuable resources available to local historians, as well as those pursuing their family history, is the Drummoyne War Service Record, held by the Local Studies Section of Canada Bay City Library. This beautifully illustrated record was created by Drummoyne resident and lithographic artist Henry John Allcock Baron. Poignantly, Henry and Emily Baron’s only, son Harley James, was amongst those listed in the Record as being killed in action in Belgium in September 1916, aged 22.
Canada Bay Heritage Museum is currently compiling a register of servicemen and women associated with Canada Bay, who served in the Great War. The research includes information about what happened to soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses when they returned to Australia. Thus far we have researched more than 800 persons and estimate there are several times that number whose stories are yet to be uncovered.
We are looking for any photographs, family stories or other information relating to those who may have had an association with Canada Bay, and who served in World War I. If you are engaged in finding out more about a relative who had a Canada Bay connection and was involved in this war, we may be able to help you.