Remembrance Day 2017: Remarkable similarities in soldiers’ footsteps Tathra friends discover

STRIKING SIMILARITIES Tathra's Allen Collins with a photo of his uncle,George Golbourn Warren, who served in World War I. Picture: Alana Beitz
STRIKING SIMILARITIES Tathra's Allen Collins with a photo of his uncle,George Golbourn Warren, who served in World War I. Picture: Alana Beitz

Saturday marks an important Remembrance Day for Allen Collins and Reverend Stephen Rigby of St Martin by the Sea Church in Tathra. 

This year marks 100 years since both of their uncles died in battle, only one month apart. 

Mr Collins and Rev Rigby discovered the coincidence a few years ago while chatting.

After some swapping of family histories, they found their uncles also enlisted a month apart. Rev Rigby’s uncle, Harry Victor Valle, enlisted in December, 1914 and Mr Collins’ uncle, George Golbourn Warren, enlisted in January, 1915.

However, the similarities didn’t end there. In the letters the soldiers sent back to their families, later accessed by Mr Collins and Rev Rigby through Defence Service Records, an uncanny resemblance emerged. 

Both uncles were shipped off shortly after enlistment and arrived on the shores of Egypt. Then they both fought at Gallipolli before being sent to Britain for retraining. 

Their training prepared them for the terrible battles fought along the Western Front, but during their time, both Sergeant Warren and Sapper Valle were wounded and shipped back to Britain. 

After medical attention, they were both deployed to their last post in Belgium.

Rev Rigby’s uncle was killed on September 17, 1917. He was buried in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium. 

Exactly one month later, and only 13 kilometres west, Mr Collins’ uncle was killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 17, 1917. His body was never recovered, but his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres. 

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Mr Collins said reading through the letters his uncle wrote could be emotional. 

“I think most of them were naive when they went in, they thought it would be a great adventure,” he said.

“But as the war went on they became disillusioned, they saw mate after mate fall, and it changed them.”

The longer Sergeant Warren was at war, the darker his letters home became. 

“One cannot help thinking that war is a thing that should not be allowed among nations in these advanced ages,” he wrote in a letter dated May 10, 1916. 

“To see these once finely built places all smashed to a heap of ruins, is enough to convince anybody.”

Mr Collins believes it is his duty to pass on the lessons and legacies of soldiers such as Warren and Valle to future generations. 

Although he and Rev Rigby have suffered loss in their families, Mr Collins said the shared experience keeps their uncles’ memories alive.

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