Thank you to the Ballarat East Community Men’s Shed & the Ballarat RSL
For the past year members working on the Mining Mud & Medals Project have been searching archives and records for the names of tunnellers from the Ballarat Electorate. During that time many have been added to our growing list of names.
On ANZAC Day last year we noticed many of those them were unrepresented amongst the rows of white crosses on the median strip near the Cenotaph, on Sturt Street. Every year volunteers from Ballarat RSL and Bunnings Ballarat carefully place each cross into the ground, in alphabetical order, a few days before ANZAC Day.
Many residents will be unaware those small crosses can be purchased by family members of ex-servicemen and women from all theatres of war, for the relatives who have spent a considerable amount of their life in Ballarat, from RSL Ballarat, for the one-off cost of $20 each (Those applying do not have to be modern day descendants of ANZAC diggers). This price barely covers the cost of making and painting each cross. There are also additional costs incurred during the preparation, such as printing and plasticising of the individual name tag attached to each cross.
Members of the Mining Mud & Medals sub-committee (auspiced by Victorian Interpretive Projects Inc.) recently compiled a list of unrepresented tunnellers. They were anxious to ensure their names would not be forgotten on the centenary of ANZAC this year. A search by staff at RSL Ballarat subsequently revealed, almost 60 Ballarat tunnellers were missing from the list of names in their White Cross database.
There are many reasons why their names may have been forgotten. Descendants of those who served in Australian Army Tunnelling Companies during WW1 are often unaware great grandad or a great uncle worked as a tunneller during the Secret War. In some instances, these servicemen simply had no family left in Ballarat.
With this in mind, the Mining Mud and Medals team agreed to facilitate the donation of 60+ crosses to the Ballarat RSL. A partnership between members of the Ballarat East Men’s Shed and Bunnings Ballarat ensured the White Cross project was completed in time for the Centenary of ANZAC commemorations held on 25 April 2015.
Volunteers from the Ballarat East Men’s Shed were honoured to be asked to make and paint the timber crosses for free: in all, they made 100 from recycled hardwood! They also ensured each cross had an RSL poppy wired onto it – and double-sided plastic clips were carefully attached to hold each name card in place. RSL Ballarat provided their poppies at no cost and Bunnings Ballarat kindly offered to supply the special clips used to hold the name tags. Thank you to everyone who worked to ensure this White Cross project was such a success. What a wonderful team effort!
In March 2016 the MM&M team will once again submit a list of recently identified tunneller names to RSL Ballarat for verification, and inclusion on their White Cross database. If you or a member of your extended family are connected to a local man who served with the Australian Army Tunnelling Corps, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Lest We Forget.