Remembrance Day: Returned soldiers remembered on centenary of Armistice

Westralian Great War Living History Association member Grant O'Neil and Friends of Anzac Cottage secretary Anne Chapple want people to remember to what WWI veterans came home to after Armistice 1918. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au D487786
Westralian Great War Living History Association member Grant O'Neil and Friends of Anzac Cottage secretary Anne Chapple want people to remember to what WWI veterans came home to after Armistice 1918. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au D487786

HOW soldiers survived when they came home will be remembered when the centenary of the Armistice that ended World War I is commemorated at Anzac Cottage in Mt Hawthorn on Remembrance Sunday.

“They came back and often they became problems in society; they took to drink because they were often written up as a brilliant hero but they were just a bloke,” Friends of Anzac Cottage secretary Anne Chapple said.

The cottage was built by the Mt Hawthorn community for Mrs Chapple’s grandfather Private John Porter, who was the first returned soldier in 1915 after being wounded on the first day of the Gallipoli landings.

Mrs Chapple said her grandfather was like many who followed after Armistice three years later.

“He never spoke about it and said there were others more worthy than him,” she said.

The cottage has collected several stories of the later returned soldiers.

“Alf White helped build the cottage, then signed up; he was wounded in both arms on the Western Front and had one arm amputated, but when he got back he resumed his job as a brick carter, one-armed,” Mrs Chapple said.

Light Horseman Alf Gittos had serious eye damage from the wind-blown sand of the Middle East and had to give up work only a few years after returning.

Then there was the impact on the families of those who never came home.

“One of the most poignant things was reading the list of items sent back – a Bible, a postcard, a pair of scissors – and that’s all there was from a loved one,” Mrs Chapple said.

Wives without husbands, families without sons, fathers or uncles then faced the hardships of being without their main income provider and loved one.

“My grandmother would say life would have been so much better if great-uncle Joe had survived, because his family had to go through the following years and The Great Depression as a single mother with seven children and grandma,” Mrs Chapple said.