WALLACE Hammond never made it home from the battlefields of northern France.
He went with the blessings of his parents and his employer, the Warrnambool Standard, but it wasn’t enough to protect the young apprentice printer from the German shell that felled him in no man’s land at Fromelles on July 19, 1916 — 10 days after his 18th birthday.
Nearly a century on, the search for Wallace’s final resting place still eludes his family, but his spirit will live on when Michelle Butters has the medals of her great-great uncle pinned close to her heart on Anzac Day.
Ms Butters, 37, will join the March of the Medals, a contingent of descendants of World War I Diggers proudly wearing the hard-won medals of their forebears, at the head of the solemn procession to Warrnambool’s War Memorial.
It will mark the first time that Wallace’s three medals — the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal — have been worn on Anzac Day since they were presented to his grieving parents, Thomas and Lydia Hammond, in the years after his death.
“I’m expecting it’s going to be very emotional,” anticipates Ms Butters.
Watching from the crowd will be an equally emotional Helen Raw, the longtime keeper of her Uncle Wallace’s medals and memories. “I’ll probably fall apart,” said Mrs Raw, 85. “It means a lot to me.”
So much so, she asked her great-niece Ms Butters to represent the family in a task that she herself felt would be too emotionally taxing.
It was a request Ms Butters was only too happy to fulfil. “I was honoured,” said the agribusiness relationship assistant, who works as a volunteer for the Warrnambool RSL visiting ex-service personnel and their spouses in hospital.
“I love the Anzac history and my family was so heavily connected ... It’s important that the younger generation understands how important our military history is.”
When The Standard cleared young Wallace the day after he enlisted in the army on July 8, 1915, he became the first of a string of brothers, sons and husbands of several generations of the family to serve across both world wars.
On Wallace’s official release form, then Standard director Thomas Burden wrote: “This company has no objection to the indentures being broken for the purpose of the said Wallace Hammond enlisting to fight for the Empire, and wishes him every success and a safe return.”
Fate may have had other plans for Wallace, but Ms Butters and Mrs Raw are determined that his memory, at least, will live on.
Warrnambool RSL vice-president and Anzac Day ceremony co-ordinator Michael Bellamy said as many as 200 people could take part in the 10.45am March of Medals.
Under march protocols, descendants must wear medals on the right breast only and be suitably attired. A full list of protocols is available via the Warrnambool City Council or RSL.