Retracing family footsteps

• Nathan Barnden at the Bega Soldiers’ Memorial which bears the names of two of his relatives.
• Nathan Barnden at the Bega Soldiers’ Memorial which bears the names of two of his relatives.

THE chance to “stand where my grandfather” stood is something to which 16-year-old Bega High School student Nathan Barnden is looking forward.

Nathan is the first Bega student to be awarded a prestigious Premier’s AN-ZAC Memorial Scholar-ship which was presented to him on Saturday by Premier Kristina Keneally at the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney.

One of only 20 state-wide, the scholarship will allow Nathan to travel to Japan and Korea in the July school holidays next year.

There he will retrace some of the steps his grandfather Gordon Barnden took as part of the occupation forces after World War 2 when he was part of the clean up operation after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

“I never met my grandfather so to be able to think that he was there and might have been standing where I am standing, will be pretty special,” Nathan said.

In his application Nathan wrote of his family’s military history.

Apart from his grandfather’s service, his great-great grandfather William Bottomley fought at Gallipoli and was wounded.

Nathan’s great uncle Francis Salway fought in both world wars while his third cousin Patrick Salway was a POW aboard the ill-fated Montevideo Maru when it was sunk by the USS Sturgeon.

Over 1000 men died in that tragedy, the worst maritime disaster in Australia’s history.

William Bottomley and Patrick Salway are both listed on the Bega Soldiers’ Memorial.

Nathan also wrote about his passionate interest in Australia’s military history.

“I believe that in order to understand the present, we must first understand the past and hope this will guide our future,” he wrote.

Nathan was encouraged in his efforts by Bega High School’s head teacher of history Kath Miller.

“Nathan has a real understanding of the sacrifice of servicemen and women and is a very passionate history student,” she said.

“He will be a wonderful ambassador for Bega High School and the wider community, and we are very proud of him.”

Nathan said he didn’t expect to win a scholarship.

“It was a real surprise, especially as I am from a small country town,” he said.

“But it is really exciting and going up to meet the premier Kristina Keneally on the weekend was great.”

The desire to learn more about the history of war has always been with Nathan.

“I’ve always thought about it and read a lot about it,” he said.

“Then I started the research on my family members and it got bigger and bigger.”

Nathan said he is looking forward to the trip with great anticipation.

“I’m really proud to have been chosen to do this trip and although I know most of my family’s history I’ll be able to look at it from a different angle by doing this.”

In another part of his application Nathan put it succinctly when writing about the men in his family who served.

“Being given the chance to stand where they stood and to see what they saw would mean the world to me,” he wrote.

“The sacrifices made by soldiers of my family and every other family should never be forgotten and by visiting these places, to me they never will be.”