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Son ensures his digger father’s memory endures

Tuesday, 3rd March, 2015

Robert Bagnall with some of his memorabilia from World War I. Robert Bagnall with some of his memorabilia from World War I.

By Michael Murphy

A former Broken Hill man whose father was a tunneller during World War I is keeping his dad’s memory alive in the lead-up to 100th anniversary of Anzac Day.

Robert Bagnall’s father, Henry George Bagnall, was born in the Silver City in June, 1893, and enlisted at Keswick, South Australia, with the AIF in the elite No.2 Tunnelling Company, World War I re-enforcements in March, 1916.

He served three years of military service, mostly overseas in Belgium and France, before being discharged in July, 1919.

“My Dad, upon discharge at Keswick, decided to head to Kadina/Wallaroo to offer condolences to his war mate’s family, Glen Lehman, who was killed in France, on March 8, 1918,” said Robert, who moved from Broken Hill to Hallet Cove, South Australia, with his wife Carol, in 1986.

“Dad married his first wife, Ruby Olive Lehman, at Kadina Catholic Church, on February 14, 1920,” Robert said.

“Her first husband was Dad’s mate from the war.”

Ruby unfortunately died of pneumonia at an early age, and a broken-hearted Henry then returned to Broken Hill to work in the mines.

“My dad later married my mum, Mary (Molly), on December 26, 1945.

“He was 53-years-old when I was conceived, and died in 1983 at 90 years of age.

“He was a very resilient man.”

The No.2 Tunnelling Company was mentioned in dispatches as “the crack mining company on the Western front”.

The Australian movie, ‘Beneath Hill 60’, was based on the mining (sapping) and ordinance skills of the Australian tunnellers at Messines Ridge, Belgium.

More than 120 men in the tunnellers company came from the Broken Hill area.

The earlier No.1 Division was commanded by South Australian Oliver Woodward, who was later awarded the Military Cross.

Bob’s and others’ World War I memorabilia will be on display during the City of Marion’s commemorations of 100 years since ANZAC.

The exhibition is open from April 18 until May 10 at GalleryM at the Marion Cultural Centre, Diagonal Road, Sturt.

For more information go to www.marion.sa.gov.au.

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