The News commemorates 100th anniversary of Armistice which brought end to World War 1By Shepparton News
By Bob Wilkie
Shepparton RSL president
After several months of fighting on the Western Front, the Allies finally broke through the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918.
The German army was beaten and within weeks came the Armistice.
The Armistice of Compiegne between the Allies and Germany came into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918.
The guns fell silent on the Western Front and after more than four years of unimaginable bloodshed and destruction, the war was finally over.
At home in Australia, large crowds gathered everywhere to celebrate the end of conflict.
The Armistice paved the way for the signing of a formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles, and the end of the war six months later.
On June 28, 1919, the treaty was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, with Australian Prime Minister William Morris (Billy) Hughes and Deputy Prime Minister Joseph Cook adding their signatures on Australia’s behalf.
After the Second World War, Armistice Day became Remembrance Day, a time to commemorate war dead from all conflicts.
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million with an estimated 16 million deaths.
For Australia, World War I remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties.
From a population of fewer than five million, 416809 enlisted, of which more than 60000 were killed and 156000 wounded, gassed or taken prisoner.
Unfortunately, the Shepparton RSL does not hold records of Shepparton and district casualties. It is believed there were about 100 local people who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War.
The RSL was formed in June 1916 by troops returning from World War I with the purpose of preserving the spirit of mateship formed amid the carnage and horror of battle, to honour the memory of the fallen and to help each other when required.
One hundred years ago there was no formal government welfare service for veterans and the RSL committed itself to provide for the sick, wounded and needy among those who had served, including their dependants.
In effect, the RSL was the first national welfare agency in Australia and welfare remains our prime function today not just for older veterans but also young vets and their families.
The other underlying philosophy of the League is mateship and this is as true now as it was in 1916.
We encourage you to visit the Sub-Branch on memorial days such as Anzac and Remembrance Day to experience mateship at its finest and to share a yarn or two with service members.
A pristine edition of the Shepparton News from more than 100 years ago is displayed at the Shepparton RSL.
It features photographs of soldiers from the region who had fallen in World War I, up to the end of December 1917.
Many of the stories in The News special feature published on November 8 are centred around some of the soldiers pictured in the historical edition.
Shepparton RSL president Bob Wilkie made the discovery in the venue’s memorabilia room earlier this year when sorting through the room ahead of Anzac Day to prepare the RSL’s window display.
‘‘I couldn’t believe we have something like that; it’s over 100 years old,’’ he said.
Dozens of sets of eyes look back from the framed liftout, which had been kept in near-perfect condition.
If it were not for a local hairdresser, however, Mr Wilkie might never have discovered the newspaper.
‘‘One of our hairdressers who cuts the veterans’ hair . . . actually got in touch with me and said he had something to donate to the RSL from World War I.
‘‘He had this magnificent list of soldiers from the district who had fallen in World War I.
‘‘It was slightly damaged and we were going through the process of getting it framed and putting it up.’’
But just a few weeks later, Mr Wilkie rummaged through the memorabilia closet looking for something else when he came across the exact same newspaper liftout, in far better condition.
‘‘The frame was very old and it obviously hadn’t been displayed for a long time,’’ he said.
‘‘You don’t really see something like that in such good condition.’’
The images show the men before they headed off to serve their country.
Some show brothers or relatives side by side.
‘‘You can recognise a lot of the family names on there,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
‘‘Some of them have still got family in the district.’’
Mr Wilkie said the Great War — or World War I — had been a significant time for the RSL.
‘‘It was essentially what started the RSL,’’ he said.
Mr Wilkie anticipated there might be a similar edition, dated the following year, 1918, which would feature more of the soldiers from the district who did not return.
He said the Shepparton RSL was absolutely delighted to have rediscovered the liftout.
It now takes pride of place at the Shepparton RSL.
"The cherished piece of local history now sits proudly in the foyer of our Sub-Branch, paying tribute to the young men who made the ultimate sacrifice. On your next visit, I encourage you to spend some time appreciating what this hidden keepsake represents,'' Mr Wilkie said.
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