When the call went out for young Australian men to help in the WWI effort, more than 480 volunteers from Sydney’s west answered.
Of those who enlisted, 335 soldiers were born in Penrith; 73 in St Marys, 21 in Emu Plains, 18 from Mulgoa, 15 from Castlereagh and Luddenham, three from Kingswood, and one each from Jamisontown and Llandilo, Penrith Council says.
“A pretty fair effort, I think you’d agree, from what was then a sleepy outpost on the western outskirts of the Sydney region,” Penrith mayor John Thain said.
The efforts of those brave young men who answered the call is being remembered in a special exhibition space to be installed in the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, and last Thursday a piece of Luddenham became part of the project.
Dignitaries including Mulgoa MP Tanya Davies, Cr Thain, representatives of Penrith and St Marys RSL and locals were at the Luddenham Progress Hall to collect soil to be displayed next to a plaque and the GPS co-ordinates of the collection site on the walls of the Hall of Service.
Almost 1700 plaques will be created for every town, suburb and locality in NSW that enlistees for WWI gave as their addresses as part of the project.
Ms Davies said the project recognises the service of those who signed up not just in the big cities but the tiny towns like Luddenham in the Great War.
“It’s an incredible honour to lead this ceremony, to take this soil, to secure in perpetuity the connection between that incredible, tragic history in our global story but also to link it so personally and so realistically to this region,” she said.
Penrith RSL Subbranch president Mick McConnell said the project was very worth while. “It’s something that’ll last forever, we hope – that people can go to and look at and reflect on our past,” he said.
St Marys RSL Subbranch president Ron Blakely said both sub-branches were 100 per cent behind the project. “We’ll help out as much as we possibly can,” he said.
According to the Penrith District Roll of Honor 1914-1919, Cecil William Robert Howlett and Frederick George Eaton enlisted at Luddenham for WWI. Howlett died on May 2,1915, and Eaton on April 19, 1917. Their memorials are at Gallipoli and Palestine, respectively.