Geraldton community digging deep for Gallipoli trench project rebuild

Headshot of Elise Van Aken
Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Email Elise Van Aken
Members of the the 11th Battalion AIF and the Gallipoli Trench Project Dr Stewart Adamson, Ian Wright, Mark Long, Phil Eather, Karl Edwards, Chris Cox. and Michael McGilvray.
Camera IconMembers of the the 11th Battalion AIF and the Gallipoli Trench Project Dr Stewart Adamson, Ian Wright, Mark Long, Phil Eather, Karl Edwards, Chris Cox. and Michael McGilvray. Credit: Elise Van Aken/Geraldton Guardian

This Geraldton group takes the words “lest we forget” more seriously than most by not just remembering World War I, but living it.

It was not war games and battle glory that necessarily drew the dedicated members of the Geraldton-based 11th Battalion Living History Unit to their labour of love, but keeping the memory of fallen soldiers alive and creating a real-life connection for their surviving loved ones.

The group held its annual commemoration last Saturday of Leane’s Trench being taken during the Gallipoli campaign and the 106th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine during WWI.

RELATED NEWS

Annabelle, 5, and James O'Brien, 7, at the 11th Battalion AIF's commemoration of the 106th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine.
Camera IconAnnabelle, 5, and James O'Brien, 7, at the 11th Battalion AIF's commemoration of the 106th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine. Credit: Elise Van Aken/Geraldton Guardian

Historic war vehicles were on display for the event, while the seven male members of the group dressed in replica traditional WWI uniforms.

There was a presentation about the work the unit does and the history of the battle, followed by a service at the unit’s own war memorial, a tour of the trench, and refreshments.

It was a special occasion, not just because of the anniversary year but also because of the help provided by the community and businesses to refurbish the trench after it was damaged by tropical cyclone Seroja in April.

“We’re extremely grateful for those people who showed up for the event, and eternally grateful for the support we received from the community, particularly Bendigo Bank and the City of Greater Geraldton,” group president and veteran Chris Cox said.

Volunteers help refurbish the replica Leane's Trench.
Camera IconVolunteers help refurbish the replica Leane's Trench. Credit: Supplied

“A huge effort was put in by Disaster Relief Australia, who heard of our plight with the cyclone damage and came to our rescue to almost completely rebuild the trench.

“It would have taken us a year of weekends to do it on our own.” The monument is a replica of a Turkish trench taken in 1915 by the 11th Battalion, a WWI infantry unit comprising soldiers from WA.

The group is now able to re-open its Living Gallipoli Trench tours to the public for the first time since the cyclone, complete with sound systems, actors and war paraphernalia.

“D company”, as they sometimes refer to themselves in homage to the 11th Batallion soldiers conscripted from the Mid West, was recently nominated for a WA Community Achievement Award, has acted in multiple war films, and featured in documentaries.

11th Battalion Living History Unit member Michael McGilvray helping refurbish the replica Leane's Trench in Northern Gully.
Camera Icon11th Battalion Living History Unit member Michael McGilvray helping refurbish the replica Leane's Trench in Northern Gully. Credit: Supplied

Group member and historian James Hurst told host Neil Oliver in an episode of the BBC’s The Coast Australia series why creating a “sand bag for sand bag” replica of the trench was imperative.

“This is not a generic trench, this is a real position with a real history and we can create real links to people,” he said.

“So people can come here and say ‘my great-uncle was here’, and you can find out who he was and you can actually point to a part of the trench.

“It’s better than a statue, it’s highly educational. I believe it was the first time since the landing, us or the Turks, had taken an enemy trench and held it.”

Trench tours operate on the third Saturday of the month between 1pm and 4pm in Northern Gully.

Appointments are not needed.

Volunteers helping refurbish the replica Leane's Trench for the 11th Batallion Living History Unit in Northern Gully.
Camera IconVolunteers helping refurbish the replica Leane's Trench for the 11th Batallion Living History Unit in Northern Gully. Credit: Supplied

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails