Diggers stories live on

DEAD men can’t  speak, but their stories emerged from graves in the Warrnambool cemetery during an Anzac Day guided tour by historian Ray Welsford.

He and the Warrnambool Family History Group have discovered links in 16 tombstones to 19 men who were killed in World War I  and buried in Europe — three of them brothers.

They continue to find more clues to fallen Diggers who never came home but are remembered on family graves.

“We’ll finish the job and hope to have a complete picture for the Anzac centenary next year,” Mr Welsford told the audience who followed him around the historic cemetery yesterday morning.

The first tombstone visited was the Weatherhead family grave, which bears acknowledges John Fortescue Law Weatherhead, who was killed in action in August 1915, aged 26.

He was born at Allansford and was the ninth of 12 children, his father being the first secretary-manager of  Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory.

Near it is a badly faded tombstone with only one burial in the grave, that of an eight-year-old girl, Myrtle Humphreys, the daughter of William and Elizabeth.

Research revealed William was a private in the 5th Battalion, 9th reinforcements and was killed at Pozieres, France, in July 1916, aged 36.

Among the audience yesterday was Helen Laidlaw of Geelong who is the great-niece of  Private Humphreys’ wife Elizabeth (Taggart) and has conducted her own family research.

Further along the historic pathway is the Bruce family grave which acknowledges Harry and Lindsay, both killed on war service. Harry had already served in South Africa before enlisting for the Great War, where he was wounded and died later in France and was buried. 

Lindsay was hospitalised with trench fever and evacuated to England.  When he recovered he returned to the front only to be killed by a shell in May 1918  — six months before armistice was declared.

pcollins@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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