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Community & Business

24 November, 2021

Lest we forget

Gilgandra residents took a moment on November 11, at 11am, to remember those who had fallen in World War I.

By Emily Middleton

Local Peter Hall stood proud at the podium last Thursday and read a short passage of his uncle’s story. The late Arthur Hall enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) when he was just 19-years-old, in April 1916.

“Originally when he wanted to enlist, he was rejected because he was too lightly built. He was told to go home and grow,” said Peter.

“So he went home and, as usual, when you’re growing up on the west Bogan country, you’re very often feeding stock. He did nearly 12 months of scrub cutting, swinging the axe, and he reenlisted then.”

After training, Arthur was posted to 54th Battalion, then serving on the Western Front in France.

“Most of the time he was a private, but he was promoted numerous times as a corporal, and eventually as a sergeant,” said Peter.

Arthur received a Victoria Cross award after his service in WWI, but the actions were hardly ever spoken about.

“The men, then and now, don’t talk about their escapades in the war and what they experienced. I didn’t know anything much except that he won the VC, and I was told it was the highest award in the British empire for bravery,” said Peter.

“I just grew up knowing he was awarded that medal and he was a brave man. He was a hard worker, and he was very popular in the community.”

According to various historic sources, on September 1, 1918, at Péronne, Somme, Arthur Hall rushed a machine-gun post. There, he shot four of the enemy and captured nine, with two guns. Continuously in advance of the main party, he personally led assault parties, capturing many small parties of the enemy and machine-guns.

On the morning of September 2, during a heavy barrage, he carried to safety a comrade who had been dangerously wounded and was in urgent need of medical attention. It was for these actions that Arthur was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Arthur wrote a letter to his father at the time but was scarce on details.

“He starts off ‘at 2am in the morning, September 1, we were dug out and moved towards the line. I will just break off here to put in a bit of a tale,’ and he goes on in his letter, he doesn’t elaborate on his own achievements at all. I never heard anyone criticise him for being above himself in that regard. He was a humble man,” said Peter.

“To compare his diary entries from the first and second of September 1918, with the recommendation for his awarding VC, he was very brief in his diary entries of the time, and the recommendation for the VC was probably ran into 400-500 words.”

One of Peter’s most vivid memories of his uncle is of him working on their property.

“In 1950, so he wasn’t young, he’d be climbing up trees single-handedly, and swinging an axe in the other hand to cut scrub for his cattle.”

Peter speaks highly of his uncle and is proud of his family’s history.

“I am proud of my family’s involvement in service to Australia in that regard. My father volunteered in 1941 and was sent to Darwin and then to New Guinea, and he was there until 1945. He left a wife and three young kids to enlist. Me being one of them,” said Peter.

On December 8, 2011, a road was named after Arthur Hall. The Arthur Hall VC Way runs between Coolabah and Brewarrina and runs past the small church where he was buried.

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