We tend to think of the big battles on Anzac Day, the great sacrifices and the huge loss of life but at the local level, war has provided instances of real drama, sacrifice, patriotism and strangely enough, humour.
The story of the Harper brothers in World War 1 is touching and typical of a tragedy played out across the nation. Aged 19 and 22 when they enlisted in August 1915, James and Robert were both killed in the Battle of the Somme just over a year later. Harpers’ Field, an area of open land near the Golden Grove Uniting Church, has been named in honour of them.
In World War 2, the McEwin family of Glen Ewin also suffered the loss of a child when Joan, serving in the Middle East with a Voluntary Aid Detachment, died of an illness at the age of 29 years. An avenue of poplar trees was planted on Lower Hermitage Road near Glen Ewin, in her memory.
Despite these awful tragedies, war also supplies some inadvertent humour, especially from the safe vantage point of modern day. During World War 2, local residents were keen to do their bit so at the outbreak of the war signboards were taken down and stored in Council’s shed. This was done in the hope of confusing the enemy should they invade Tea Tree Gully. No doubt it confused more “friends” than “foes” until the signs were restored in 1942 when the threat of invasion had receded.
Streetlights were also “browned” out for the same period. To achieve this the globes were either painted black or shading was used over the light.
A Volunteer Air Observer’s Corps was also established and a telephone installed in the back room of the old Council chambers for the volunteers to use if they spotted anything untoward. The post was manned 24 hours a day.
Tea Tree Gully was not immune to the food shortages and rationing that was the norm elsewhere across the country. The Glen Ewin factory at Inglewood was busy throughout the war supplying canned vegetables to the U.S.Army. They had begun their connection with the military by supplying jam to troops involved in the Boer War.
With the end of war in 1945, a grateful Council stood for a minute’s silence to remember the fallen at the start of the Council meeting. This was to become a tradition that was to continue for the next 20 years.
In all, 245 men and 20 women from the District had served during the war with 11 dying on active duty.
Lest we forget.