Tapping: Medal returned to family of World War I soldier ahead of Remembrance Day

A special commemoration marking the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I is planned for Remembrance Day in Kalgoorlie-Boulder this Sunday.

The commemoration will include a partial re-enactment of the scenes of the day when City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mayor John Bowler will deliver the same Armistice speech from the balcony of the Mechanics Institute where former mayor Bernard Leslie broke news of the Armistice 100 years ago.

The event will start just before 10am with the Goldfields Brass Band and the Two Up Two Down Community Choir playing music reminiscent of the time.

After Cr Bowler’s speech, Returned and Services League members, navy, army and air force cadets and a cenotaph party will march to the Kalgoorlie War Memorial for a memorial service.

The service will be led by Kalgoorlie sub-branch RSL president Robyn Steenbach when school children representing the 52 soldiers who died from the initial Goldfields’ contingent of 187 will be invited to hang a plaque commemorating the fallen men from the fence surrounding the cenotaph.

A report in the Kalgoorlie Miner on November 12, 1918, describes the jubilant scenes when the news broke of the end of the war.

“A tremendous crowd, numbering several thousand persons, gathered within a short space of time in a compact mass in Hannan Street, between the Post Office tower and Maritana Street,” the article said.

“The cheering that followed the announcement will long be fresh in the memory of the thousands of spectators who participated in the outburst.”

RSL committee member Anne Skinner said there were probably more than 4000 men from the Goldfields who fought in the war and it was important to remember their contribution.

“The Goldfields gave above the national average in men,” she said.

“That has possibly got something to do with having a high percentage of men but the Goldfields (sent) more than 10 per cent of its population to the war. Miners are risk-takers … so it probably didn’t seem such a big deal to go away and be shot at.”

Cr Bowler said although it would have been a happy moment, he expects the commemoration to be a sombre occasion.

“While it was a joyous occasion to celebrate the end of the war, clearly it was a devastating period of the last century,” he said.

“I suppose 100 years ago, there would have been a certain joyousness, but I think looking back now and knowing the number of people affected of the thousands who left the Goldfields, many were either killed, severely injured or were never the same people again.

“If we can, as a people, avoid wars, or even day-to-day conflict in our lives, we should do so.”

Robyn Steenbach and Anne Skinner on the Mechanics Institute balcony.Picture: Tori O'Connor / Kalgoorlie Miner
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