Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.
The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.
According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died. The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918. The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee. However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates. The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”
There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country, and their individual military heritage, were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A).
The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony. The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.
If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.
A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?
“It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore. Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’! Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.