Keeping history alive: Max Hammond and Helen Raw commemorated the service and sacrifice of their uncle, Private Wallace Hill Hammond. Picture: Anthony Brady
As Helen Raw and Max Hammond gathered at Warrnambool’s war memorial on Tuesday, it marked the day their uncle, Wallace Hill Hammond, died on the French battlefield100 years before.
Private Hammond was killed in the battle ofFromelles, July 19, 1916, in what was some of the fiercest fighting of the war so far.
Part of the 60thBattalion, Private Hammond, 18, was killed by a German shell.
While a sergeant was reported to have seen his body in no man’s land, it was never recovered, and what followed was an agonising wait for his family back home in Warrnambool.
“He was reported missing but it was 12 months before his death was confirmed, so they lived in hope that he was alive,” Mrs Raw said.
Despite many mass graves being uncovered over the years,Private Hammond’s body was never found and hisname is now listed on VC Corner at Fromelles.
He became the first of several generations of the family to serve acrossboth world wars.Mrs Raw’s four brothers, including Max,and husband Peter fought in World War II.
Private Wallace’s three medals— the 1914/15 Star, BritishWar Medal and VictoryMedal — were worn on Anzac Day for the first time last yearby Mrs Raw’s nieceMichelle Butters.
“I love the Anzac history and my family was so heavily connected … It’s important that the younger generation understandhow important our military history is,” Ms Butters said at the time.
The battle of Fromelles was the first major action involving Australian soldiers in France.
At that time it rated as the battle responsible forthe greatest loss of Australian life in 24 hours and claimed thousands of lives over two days.
Filled with the spirit of adventure, Private Hammond enlisted in Warrnambool on July 1915and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Wiltshire inNovember of the same year.
But Private Hammond did not leave Australian shoresbefore receiving the blessing of his parents, Thomas and Lydia, and his employer.
“Wallaceworked at The Standard as a compositor,” Mrs Raw said.
On Private Wallace’sofficial release form, then Standard director Thomas Burden wrote: “Thiscompany has no objection tothe indentures being brokenfor the purpose of the saidWallace Hammond enlistingto fight for the Empire, andwishes him every successand a safe return.”
While it seems that fate hadother ideasfor Private Wallace,his memory,at least, lives on.
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