As Australia marks the centenary of the sacrifice made by its soldiers at Fromelles and Pozieres, in France’s Somme Valley, it is fitting for Kiama to remember two of its own who died there.
Both men left Kiama in the euphoria of the Waratah March. Joseph Cooper (right) was born in Gerringong and was only 19 when he joined the March in late 1915. He arrived in France the day after his 20th birthday. Richard (Dick) McDonald was born in Queensland who found work in Kiama as a quarry man.
It was said in a newspaper report following his death that Dick’s indigenous heritage meant his first attempt to enlist was knocked back, but the Waratahs welcomed the popular local to their ranks.
The Waratahs were thrown into action almost immediately at Pozieres, where many lost their lives (over 12,000 Australians died in the two week campaign). Joseph and Dick were amongst the first.
The older man died on 24 July, and the younger on 29 July after being wounded up to a week earlier.
The Coopers received back their son’s cigarette case, testament, metal watch, wallet and cotton bag.
Kiama Library is in possession of the Bible which Dick received from the Kiama Salvation Army on his farewell. It was returned in 2011 after being found amongst a box of second hand books in Sydney.
From the research done by the Library’s Ken Donnellan on World War I soldiers born in our district, five other men – Joseph Harding, Herbert Ettinghausen, John Hanrahan, Albert Newman and John Parker – died in France in late July 2016, possibly at Pozieres.
Gerringong’s George Weir was wounded there, but was sent back to the Front only to be killed in November.
Lest We Forget.