14 July, 2021
Headstones for veteran graves
A LONGREACH archival group is seeking funding to bring gravestones to the graves of soldiers who fought in World War I.
The gravestones will be a part of a seven-year project conducted by President of the Longreach Archival and Historical Research Group Kaye Kuhn and Jenny Slade.
They will mark the graves of soldiers who fought in World War I and the Boer Wars in the early 20th century.
The funding for the stones may come through the Department of Veteran Affairs, applications for which end on June 30.
The Archival and Research Group have just submitted their application for the funding and should know if they are successful in the coming months.
If unsuccessful, Ms Kuhn said the Archival and Research Group are unsure what they will do with their dogged research, but she said it may come in the form of a plaque, wall at the RSL, or they may develop a website.
“We would definitely like to do something; we’d like to get it out there that these people are in our cemetery,” she said.
“Even if we only got half a dozen marked, it’s still a few more marked than what is in the graves.
“In the Longreach Cemetery, there is something like 600 unmarked graves.
“Some don’t even have any idea where they are it’s just nice to get markers on them, and it’s just nice to recognise your World War I soldiers.”
The gravestones would be cement with a brass plaque detailing name, date of birth, date of death, and state they were a soldier of World War 1.
Ms Kuhn said even though the Archival and Research Group had been working on this project for many years, it was still a rush to get it in on time.
The project started in 2014 when Ms Kuhn and Slade started a book, titled “Soldiers of the Stone,” on the soldiers named on the Longreach Cenotaph.
Ms Kuhn said she was interested in learning more about the soldiers on the cenotaph because there they are only an initial and last name.
“We wanted to know who they were and what they did,” said.
The book project led to the couple learning that there were 745 names on a memorial board that got burnt, and according to Ms Kuhn, those were names of soldiers who were enlisted in World War I.
“Then we thought, well wonder what happened to them,” she said.
“That got us to thinking about the cemetery then because as the archival group, we’ve always dealt with the cemetery.
“We just wanted to know who were our soldiers in World War I, and how many did we have buried in Longreach.”
She said World War II soldiers were easy to find because people were putting insignias on their headstones.
“In World War I they didn’t because the soldiers in World War I didn’t want any of that recognition.
“And, I guess, the money wasn’t there for people to put that on their headstones.”
Finding has the details of the soldiers, Ms Kuhn said has been a nightmare.
“We knew three-quarters of them; we knew some of them,” she said.
“We did it through newspaper research; we did it through talking to people around Longreach, cross reference, seeing lots of different databases to come up with it.
“We have about 360 soldiers in our cemetery, and that includes World War I, Boer War, World War II, and others.”
Of them, Ms Kuhn believes there to be about 100 World War I soldiers.
“Out of that, we’ve managed to find 25 who are eligible for that funding [to have a gravestone installed at their grave],” she said.
“There are more unmarked graves, but they may have been not Australian soldiers, and the funding is specifically for Australian soldiers.”
Ms Kuhn said the Longreach Cemetery is home to soldiers from around the world, including two American soldiers from the American Civil War.
This project, Ms Kuhn said, is exciting for the ladies who work in the archives, and a few other people she has talked to.
“It’s just nice getting to mark them [the graves], and I think a lot of people will feel the same way,” she said.
If you know of an unmarked grave or have any information for the Longreach Historical and Archival Research Group, they are still happy to take in that information.
“We still have 745 names, and we’re still trying to figure out what happened to them,” Ms Kuhn said.