Gunnedah became part of a special commemorative project on Thursday.
Soil from the garden surrounding the Gunnedah Cenotaph was collected by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of NSW, for the project.
The state-wide collection is part of the Anzac Memorial Centenary Project, a multi-million dollar redevelopment of NSW’s memorial in Hyde Park which acknowledges the contribution of NSW and Australian veterans to the First World War.
The place names from which the soil is collected are taken from the database of Great War enlistees, summing up the geographical reach of the call to serve. Soil will be collected from other towns within the Gunnedah region, including Mullaley and Tambar Springs whose cenotaph turns 100 next year.
Governor Hurley recounted a visit to France in 2016 where he and his wife, Linda, attended the burial of four unknown soldiers during the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Fromelle.
“The family loss, the personal loss is exactly what was replicated here at this memorial in 1927, that great sense of personal loss,” he said.
The governor said 1917 was the “bloodiest year” in Australia’s history in WWI.
“Over 50 per cent of our causalities in WWI occurred in 1917,” he said.
“So 100 years on, I think it’s very appropriate that around the state we are remembering that sacrifice.”
Governor Hurley said he was “honoured” to collect soil from Gunnedah and thankful to more than 500 men from the district who went to war.
“To have soil; it’s so particular, isn’t it? It’s so special,” he said.
“Coming from these country areas you know the value of soil, what grows from it what regenerates from it, what gives life, so to have that soil as a symbol of each town is a grand idea.
“This is something I really look forward to in 12 months time, November next year, when that memorial is open, and it will be breathtaking.”
Anzac Working Group Chair Owen Hasler said the soil collection “allows Gunnedah to remember their own and then bring together other communities from across NSW in the final artwork for a very moving tribute”.
“The Gunnedah Historical Society’s book, In the Line of Fire, amply demonstrates how over 500 men from the Gunnedah district were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their nation and the soil collection process is a fitting memorial to their courage and their families support and sacrifice,” he said.
The redeveloped NSW memorial will feature an artwork developed by artist Fiona Hall alongside Sydney architect Richard Johnson, displaying soil collected from approximately 1700 locations across NSW.