Bundamba Anzac Observance Committee at The Hutt Cemetery.
Bundamba Anzac Observance Committee at The Hutt Cemetery. Contributed

Home soil greets our fallen on Western Front

ENLISTING a few months after his brother, Nathaniel Kelly was about to make First World War history on the Western Front.

The Bundamba brothers served with First Company Australian Tunnelling Corp in Belgium.

Their story is immortalised in the film Beneath Hill 60, the story of Australian soldiers who embarked on a secret mission to dig a series of tunnels underneath German bunkers and detonate a bomb.

Both Ipswich miners, the brothers were ideal recruits for the Tunnelling Corp.

Nathaniel didn't return from war, killed in Belgium by artillery fire.

His nephew has been a regular in the crowd every Anzac Day at Bundamba Memorial Park where his uncle is named on the honour stone.

The other Kelly boy, Andrew, survived the war and returned to live a quiet life at Bundamba.

Nathaniel's grave at Hooge Crater Cemetery in Belgium, was one of more than 150 grave sites visited by the Bundamba Anzac Observance Committee.

The committee conducted a service with the Last Post played by committee chairman and army reservist Brad Strong, placed a poppy and cross made by Ipswich residents and sprinkled soil from Bundamba Memorial Park over the grave.

Mr Strong said it was one of the many touching moments of the tour.

"Every ANZAC Day Nathaniel's nephew, he's in his 80s now, he still comes to Bundamba," Mr Strong said.

"There's still that direct living link with what happened, even though it was 100 years ago."

The group of seven committee members recently returned from their self-funded, three week tour through Europe.

PAYING TRIBUTE: Brad Strong sprinkles soil from Bundamba Memorial Park on Ipswich soldier Private HJ Stephens’ grave at Tyne Cot Cemetery.
PAYING TRIBUTE: Brad Strong sprinkles soil from Bundamba Memorial Park on Ipswich soldier Private HJ Stephens’ grave at Tyne Cot Cemetery. Contributed

They visited all six of Bundamba's fallen soldiers and more than 150 of the war graves of Ipswich's 250 soldiers that didn't return from the First World War.

There is a story behind every war grave and the sheer number of fallen soldiers was the most shocking story members of the committee brought back with them after the trip.

Mr Strong said visiting sites like Fromelles, where Australia lost 5533 soldiers in one night, was a confronting experience as was the endless view of headstones at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.

"The volume of graves, when you realise the human waste, is confronting. At Tyne Cot in Belgium, and there is one of the Bundamba lads buried there, there is 12,000 headstones. It is just a field of headstones.

"But around the corner, there is a German cemetery and there are 50,000 buried there and the first grave you come to, it is a mass grave of 25,000.

"I just can't fathom the loss. I can't describe the emotions; you're left in awe and wonder and even disgust."

The group was a guest at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, presented plaques from Ipswich City Council to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Belgium and mayors of cities of significant war sites and visited major destinations such as Gallipoli to mark the 100 year of the Anzacs.

"At Gallipoli it is very confronting to stand there and see how the blokes lived for eight months in an area not much bigger than Queens Park and dealt with what they had to deal with," Mr Strong said.

The group laid poppies at the graves made by volunteers as part of the city's Poppy a Day project and crosses made by the Ipswich Men's Shed.

During the tour the committee visited towns in Belgium and France, sites in London, including the new bomber command memorial and the imperial war museum, Ieper and Tyne Cot in Belgium, Fromelles, Pozieres, Bullecourt and the Australian National Monument at Villiers Bretonneau in France.

Eddie Habben and Brad Strong at Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium.
Eddie Habben and Brad Strong at Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium. Contributed


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