On the trail of Anzacs

Andrew Pittaway with a picture of Benno Lehmann. Picture: Martin Kennealey d424579
Andrew Pittaway with a picture of Benno Lehmann. Picture: Martin Kennealey d424579

The desire to tell the stories of the 3000 people who left for war from Fremantle, 849 of whom lost their lives, led Mr Pittaway on a journey of discovery that eventually culminated in a book on the subject due out next year.

As part of the City’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, Fremantle is calling for the families of those 849 Fremantle soldiers to come forward with stories, photos, medals and anything else that would preserve the memory of those long lost soldiers.

Mr Pittaway said the individual stories of the men who lost their lives illustrated the devastation of the war for Fremantle families.

‘There was one chap who lived up in Tuckfield Street and he’d just missed out on a Rhodes Scholarship,’ he said.

‘He made his way to Scotland and studied at Edinburgh University, he was a very smart man. He joined the Royal Navy and was killed in 1915.

‘He was probably one of the smartest West Australians, it just really highlights the loss that the State suffered during the war.’

The number of deaths represent a high percentage for a city which in those days had a total population of just 25,000. Because of this high fatality rate, almost every person in Fremantle during WW1 was directly affected, with either a relative, close friend or neighbour not returning from the war.

Soon the names of the 849 will be etched in steel as part of the City of Fremantle’s 849 Project.

The 849 Project forms part of the City of Fremantle’s expanded program of events to commemorate the Anzac Centenary in 2015.

It will culminate in the names of all 849 soldiers being put forever on display at the Fremantle War Memorial on special commemorative plaques.

The unveiling will take place after Fremantle’s annual dawn service on April 25, 2015.

‘Fremantle’s role in both world wars was significant and is a big part of our history so for us, the 849 Project is really important and a fitting tribute to these soldiers 100 years on,’ Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said.

‘It’s been a monumental task just getting to this point.

‘But we now need the help of our community to complete the jigsaw by sending us images, letters and anything else that can help.’

‘We also really want to make sure that surviving relatives of the 849 have the opportunity to be at the unveiling ceremony.

As a precursor to the occasion, 849 crosses will be laid at this year’s Remembrance Day service by local schools.