GALLERY: Paying tribute to the fallen

THE faces of seven men who died serving our country stand proud above seven crosses outside the Woodvale Community Hall.

A new plaque to commemorate the lives of Woodvale's fallen servicemen - Corporal Stephen Nicholas Flett, Private John Thomas Gill,  Lance Corporal Alfred Alexander Priest, Private James Patrick Conway, Henry Attwood, Albert Edward Allen and Alfred Edwin Farnell - was unveiled at a dawn service at the Woodvale Memorial Avenue on Friday.

The tribute features photos and stories of the men and is complimented by a collage of pictures of their graves in France.

Corporal Stephen Nicholas Flett was born in Sydney Flat (Woodvale) and worked as a labourer.

A single man, he was 29 when he enlisted at Ipswich in Queensland in February 1915.

His overseas service was interrupted by frequent hospital stays in Alexandria, Cairo, Mudros, Lemnos and Marseilles but rejoined his battalion in France on May 6, 1916, and was promoted to Corporal in August. 

Corporal Flett was killed in action on November 14, 1916 at Somme, Fleurs and was buried at Villiers, Bretonneux. 

Private John Thomas Gill enlisted in the army in 1914, aged 30.

He survived his time in Gallipoli, being hospitalised twice before being sent to France in June 1916. 

He was injured in the chest and shoulder on May 4, 1918, and died from his injuries on May 7.

Lance Corporal Alfred Alexander Priest enlisted at Bendigo on February 8, 1916. 

In April he proceeded to England, via Alexandria, before sailing for France in August. 

On May 11, 1917, he was appointed Lance Corporal but was wounded in action on May 17 and later died at Wimmereux. 

Private James Patrick Conway enlisted at Eaglehawk in 1916, aged 41.

He was a miner and a single man who had previous experience with the Permanent Artillery in 1894.

In April 1917 he proceeded to France where 37 days later he was killed in action. 

Henry Attwood, an unmarried accountant joined the AIF in July 1915, aged 32. 

Serving in Egypt, Henry quickly rose through the ranks from Private, to Lance Corporal, to Corporal then Lance Sergeant and to Sergeant by August 1916. 

He served in France during 1917 and was killed in action in Belgium on September 20, 1917. 

Albert Edward Allen was 22 and a fireman in the railways when he enlisted in the IAF in August 1914.

He saw action on the Gallipoli Peninsula after landing there in May 1915.

In April 1917, Albert was promoted to Lance Corporal but was killed in action at Bullecourt, France in May 1917. 

Alfred Edwin Farnell was a dairy farmer from Myers Flat and enlisted at Eaglehawk in July 1915, aged 18.

On October 11, 1915, he left Melbourne bound for Egypt aboard the HMAS Nestor.

He joined the Expeditionary Force in France on June 30, 1916, but died from chest wounds on August 10.

About 35 people attended the dawn service and plaque unveiling at the Woodvale Memorial Avenue.

A wreath was laid by Kevin Priest, a descendant of Lance Corporal Alfred Alexander Priest.

The service also included a rendition of the poem In Flanders Fields and the placement of a Lone Pine Tree from Gallipoli.

Woodvale Community Hall Committee president Ken Stent said the plaque was made possible thanks to an $1100 grant from Saluting Their Service and a $700 contribution from the Bendigo District RSL.

"We've had other services at other times, whether it was Anzac Day or Remembrance Day, but this was our first dawn one," Mr Stent said.

"It's partly because of the unveiling but also because we felt it was rather special at dawn."

Mr Stent described the plaque as a pictorial.

"It's got the seven men that went from this area that didn't return," he said.

"So for each one we've sourced the photo for them, we sent up to Canberra for their records and then we summarised that.

"That then becomes part of the spiel about that particular soldier.

"So when you stand at the hall, about to come into the entrance of the hall, there are seven crosses that were put there in the 1920s that are sort of like a memorial avenue.

"Each one is named.

"Now you'll be able to look at the seven crosses, put a face to it and actually read the summary of their service."

In between each of the seven crosses is a rose.

"There was also a rock that had Memorial Avenue written on it but it disappeared in the 1950s from the school when the school closed," Mr Stent said.

"Then we found it on eBay and purchased it and had it nickel plated and attached to the rock.

"What it is is The Rising Sun and it says Woodvale Memorial Avenue."

Mr Stent said Woodvale still had links with the seven fallen soldiers.

"We had one of the Priest descendants lay the wreath at the service and there are still Fletts in the area," he said. 

"Some of the families have disappeared over time but we thought for anyone who comes to look at the crosses, this would just show them the photos and the stories of that particular soldier.

"Thirty-one went from this area and seven died.

"They all died in France and one of the members of the committee went to France and went around all the different grave sites and he took a photo of each of them.

"Five of them have individual graves and two of them are listed as being a mass grave.

"He took the photos and then he had them blown up and framed and that will go into the hall."

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