Our soldiers’ stories

Andrew Bratley is researching the history of WA’s military servicemen.
Andrew Bratley is researching the history of WA’s military servicemen.

He formed an interest in military history as a child, having been raised on the stories of 15 family members who fought in the Great War, four of whom died.

Mr Bratley said his upbringing taught him the limitless impact war had on people and on society. He visited battle sites including Fromelles, Ypres, Mons, Somme and Arras where he researched his project.

The rest of his material is mostly from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and national archives.

He completed more than 4000 histories across 52 memorials over two years, and said they often evoked a more complex picture of war than the Anzac legend could.

‘You hear the stories of Gallipoli, but you find hidden things in these smaller histories,’ he said.

‘You get an impression of the soldiers’ thoughts during enlistment, through their letters, and they sound eager to go. They saw an opportunity for better pay and adventure, then you see how things changed after the war when they came back.

‘They are quite disturbed in a few cases, some of the stories are tragic.’

Mr Bratley said it was, at times, a sad process collating the personal histories, but it was useful for people to remember servicemen for the right reasons ” that the wars they had fought in were still affecting the living.

He will donate his research to local governments, the RSL and Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Anyone with info email lestweforget2014@gmail.com