New plaque to be unveiled on Centenary of Armistice

DEDICATED: Vietnam veteran and founder of the Lithgow World War I Commemorative Plaque project Ian Burrett. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.
DEDICATED: Vietnam veteran and founder of the Lithgow World War I Commemorative Plaque project Ian Burrett. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.

A new commemorative plaque listing the names of 762 Lithgow people who served overseas during World War I, not named on Lithgow’s current plaque, has been granted approval by council and received funding to be completed by Remembrance Day.

Returned serviceman Ian Burrett said he has spent over 1500 hours researching the plaque, which will complement the list of 131 people who died during World War I currently on the Queen Elizabeth Park cenotaph. 

ON THE JOB: President of the Lithgow WWI Commemorative Plaque Project Inc Col Hunter, secretary Ian Burrett, council representative Steve Ring, vice-president Sue Graves, treasurer Norm Richardson and Lithgow RSL Sub-Branch president Ron Murphy and secretary Michael Cuthbert. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY

ON THE JOB: President of the Lithgow WWI Commemorative Plaque Project Inc Col Hunter, secretary Ian Burrett, council representative Steve Ring, vice-president Sue Graves, treasurer Norm Richardson and Lithgow RSL Sub-Branch president Ron Murphy and secretary Michael Cuthbert. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY

“My inspiration for the project is my father,” Mr Burrett said at the most recent council meeting.

“He is the only person with a Lithgow connection to have risen through the other ranks to become a Major, the only person to have received a Distinguished Service Order and the only one to have commanded a battalion,” he said.

Having survived the war, Athol Frederick Burrett’s service is not recorded on the Lithgow cenotaph.

“My name is on memorials in Seymour, Victoria, and Goulburn, New South Wales,” Mr Burrett said.

“I did bugger all compared to the years of hell that the men of World War I endured. If returned Vietnam Vets can be honoured how come those in World War I and II miss out?”

DRAFT: A draft of the final design for the plaque, which will be unveiled on the Centenary of Armistice Day.

DRAFT: A draft of the final design for the plaque, which will be unveiled on the Centenary of Armistice Day.

The new plaque is based on information the Lithgow World War I Commemorative Plaque Project committee has sourced from local honour boards and memorials, the National Archives Australia service records and the book ‘A Long March From Lithgow’ written by Helen Taylor and the Lithgow and District Family History Society Inc.

Mr Burrett said the criteria for WWI servicepeople to be included on the plaque was that they were born in the Lithgow township area and/or had lived and worked in Lithgow at some time prior to enlisting. 

Apart from returned servicemen, Burrett found records of 72 other Lithgow townspeople who were killed in action, but who are not on the Queen Elizabeth Park cenotaph.

Research found the names of four Lithgow women who served overseas as nurses. They will also be included on the new plaque. 

REMEMBRANCE DAY: Remembrance Day this year will be the Centenary of Armistice Day. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.

REMEMBRANCE DAY: Remembrance Day this year will be the Centenary of Armistice Day. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY.

Burrett said the project illustrates Lithgow’s contribution to the war effort.

“As such the plaque will enhance civic pride, encourage local citizens to attend annual commemorative services and assist to keep ‘The Spirit of Anzac’ alive in Lithgow for centuries to come.”

The Department of Veteran Affairs confirmed the project has been successful in securing a grant under the Armistice Centenary Grants Program, which will cover the cost of the plaque and its installation. 

The plaque will be unveiled at Lithgow RSL sub-branch’s special commemoration of the Centenary of Armistice Day this year. 

Michael Cuthbert, the secretary of the Lithgow RSL sub-branch, commended Burrett’s dedication. 

“Ian has spent a long time working on it, much to his credit.” 

Mr Burrett has compiled his research so that additional information on the service of each of the people included on the plaque can be easily located by interested family members or historians by contacting the library or the Family History Society. 

Syme brothers

One pertinent example of servicemen missing from the current Lithgow memorial is that of the Syme brothers.

The three brothers, John, Peter and Duncan, relocated to live with their aunt in Oakey Park in 1908 after both their parents passed away. All three brothers enlisted in WWI and were killed in action, but currently only one brother’s name, Duncan, appears on the Lithgow Cenotaph.

“That’s wrong,” Mr Burrett said.

Research for the new plaque found records of 72 men who were killed in action but not included on the current cenotaph. Burrett said this could be for a variety of reasons, including past government directives dictating that each person’s name could only appear on one community plaque.