On March 28, local elder and Tatura resident Gwen Atkinson was invited to attend the Australian War Memorial in Canberra for a monument unveiling and a book launch.
Mrs Atkinson is the surviving granddaughter of Harry Thorpe MM who was killed on August 9, 1918, at Lihons, France.
The Tatura RSL sub branch threw its full support behind Mrs Atkinson, her daughter Marianne, son Russell and RSL delegate Garth McMahon who all attended the occasion.
As a gesture of goodwill, the RSL donated a collage of Tatura’s Private Robert Mactier VC to the memorial and its director Brendan Nelson to express their gratitude for supporting Mrs Atkinson and her family.
The unveiling of the indigenous monument in the foreground of the memorial was a solemn and moving experience, attended by a large crowd.
In his speech, Dr Nelson made particular reference to Harry Thorpe’s sacrifice, quoting his dying words; ‘‘Do you think they will remember me back home?’’
The monument is dedicated to indigenous people who served in Australia and is sculptured by Daniel Boyd with an inscription ‘‘for our country’’.
The attendees moved into the Reg Saunders Gallery inside the memorial for the book launch of Our Mob Served.
The contingent was introduced to Reg’s daughter, several high-ranking military personnel and veterans.
Mr McMahon took the opportunity to present Dr Nelson with the collage.
He was quite taken aback, emotional and very grateful.
A tour of the memorial followed and Harry Thorpe’s service record was obtained.
Valuable assistance was given by the Australian War Memorial research staff for the ongoing Mactier Precinct Project.
A light lunch followed with squadron leader Gary Oakley and other dignitaries, then a stop at Gundagai on the way home to reflect on the enormity of the day and the book.
We appreciate Mrs Atkinson for sharing this opportunity with the Tatura RSL Sub Branch.
Harry’s original headstone was donated to the Australian War Memorial by Mrs Atkinson in 2015 and replaced by a new one in Health Cemetery in Harbonnieres, France.