By Gail McCulloch
The Rotary Club of Attadale held a wonderful Anzac Commemoration night on Monday 23rd April. Club President Colin McCulloch did a lot of research into this night with his wonderful montages of scenes from the devastation of World War 1 that was presented on the screen during the meeting. He welcomed Guest Speaker Baden Pratt and Peter Grosser and other guests Andrew Pittaway, Jacquie Pittaway, Joe Keh and Michael Feeney.
The Chairman for the evening Mick Donnes had great pleasure introducing Baden, the author of 'Hell for Leather' and his friend Peter Grosser who has been a great supporter of this project. Baden is a Fremantle identity, journalist, historian and also life member of the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club. His topic was based on the effect on a local community from the result of World War 1.
Before the meeting, a couple of club members were heard to ask "what is the relevance of a talk about a local amateur football club in relation to Anzac Day"? Well, the result was a room full of people absolutely rapt in the presentation by Baden. He is a notable researcher and obvious lover of the history of the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club.
At the beginning of World War 1 North Fremantle was a full member of the West Australian National Football League. At the outset of war, 40 members of the club volunteered for service and fought in the trenches and mud heaps of the Western Front, 11 were killed and another 20 or so were seriously wounded and were never the same. The result was the devastation of the North Fremantle Football club. So much so, due to a private meeting of the majority of West Australian National Football League clubs, North Fremantle was excluded from the league. A sad day for the district. Later, several of the returned men played league football for these other clubs and went on to be stars of the game both locally and interstate. The loss of these men and boys to war caused so much grief and loss in the area, the widows, family and friends collected money for a war memorial to be made for North Fremantle. In fact it is believed to be the first such memorial to be erected in Western Australia. Baden related thumbnail sketches of the lives of many North Fremantle soldiers who were killed in the Great War. The North Fremantle Amateur Football Club has traced the gravesites and memorials of those nine footballers killed on the Western Front in World War 1 and in 2008, 32 members of the club visited these gravesites and memorials. They conducted special ceremonies at each of the sites and placed a club football jumper with the number and name of the fallen footballer on the grave or memorial. It was an overwhelming experience for these young men. The pilgrimage and the book coincided with the 90th anniversary of the end of World War 1. The book 'Hell for Leather' is the result of an amazing community effort and has been a profound act of remembering those forgotten footballers. It has shown that each of the young men from the North Fremantle club who died on the Western Front or at Gallipoli was an individual, loved by his family and his community, was an individual who loved his country and was an individual who loved his football. The Club will continue to honour their fallen footballers and at their football match on Saturday 28th April the current players all wore football guernseys engraved with the names of the deceased players.
After Baden's wonderful presentation, no one was left wondering about the football club relevance to Anzac Day. Baden has previously been presented with a Rotary 'Paul Harris Fellowship' by the Fremantle Rotary Club for his wonderful work.
At the end of his talk Baden Pratt had great pleasure saying how privileged were we, the community of Fremantle, to have local military historian Andrew Pittaway devote what he does to this subject. Baden himself has Andrew to thank for the knowledge he has on the subject of war. He recommended Andrew's book 'Fremantle Voices of the Great War' as a wonderful and worthwhile read. President Colin McCulloch also shared more Anzac news regarding Andrew Pittaway on his research and success in locating graves of missing soldiers of WW1 through his 'Fallen Diggers Association' and the good news that approval had come through just before Anzac Day of yet another soldier's grave Private Robert Bowness who will now have a named headstone.
It certainly was a night to remember and topped off with the delicious Anzac biscuits made by none other than President Colin McCulloch.
Lest We Forget.