On this year’s centenary of Anzac Day we pause to remember the men and women who left Australia and sailed to far off lands. They were probably filled with a mixture of hope, adventure, uncertainty, bravery and fear. Many of these men and women never returned to Australia. We know the names of these men and women; but we don’t often get the chance to really understand them Too often we only know these brave men and women as names on a cenotaph or an honour roll. Sometimes we are able to put names to beautiful sepia images of soldiers in their smart uniforms that were taken before they embarked for the battlefields of Egypt, Palestine, Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Sargt. David Anderson
Sargt. David Anderson

Now, thanks to modern technology, we can now access full military records of virtually all Australian servicemen and women through the Australian National Archives, the brilliant Discovering Anzacs and the Australian War Memorial. These records tell us about bravery, sickness, hospitalisations and too often death.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 9.29.57 pm
A small section of David Anderson’s Attestation Paper – Discovering Anzacs

What these records don’t tell us is that these brave men and women were far, far more than names, ranks and numbers. They were sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mates, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends. Some were husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. Sergeant David Samuel Anderson is just one of these men.

Military records tell us that David Samuel Anderson was born at ‘Lakeview’, Bergalia in 1892. David volunteered for the First World War and served in Gallipoli and Egypt before arriving in France in June 1916. His battalion (54th) was sent to relieve troops at Fromelles in northern France, close to Belgium. He was killed in the Battle of Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) on the 19 July 1916. By using DNA his body was finally identified in 2014.

Fromelles
Sergeant Anderson’s headstone at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, Fromelles, Lille, Nord Pas de Calais, France. Photograph courtesy of Jill Byrnes.

We are lucky enough to know that David Anderson’s life was far richer than any service records can possibly indicate. We  now know a lot about his life through many family recollections, shared memories and photographs. We now know that: David Anderson was a son and brother

David’s father, Joseph Clarke Anderson, died of Typhoid Fever at Lake View in 1896, leaving his wife Kissock with six young children to raise, and a property to manage. Jill Byrnes

David's mother, Kissock Rae Anderson
David’s mother, Kissock Rae Anderson. Photograph courtesy of Jill Byrnes
Kissock'sKids1895
David Anderson ( bottom row second from right) with his five siblings. Photograph courtesy of Jill Byrnes.

David was certainly a good student One of David’s exercise books from 1900 is currently on display in the Moruya Museum. He was only eight years old when he completed this beautiful handwriting exercise and the complicated mathematical operations on the second image – reducing Pounds, Shillings and Pence into Farthings. Even at this early age David was demonstrating very high levels of fine-motor coordination

David Anderson was also a school student. One of his exercise books from 1900 is on display at our museum
David Anderson was also a school student. One of his exercise books from 1900 is on display at our museum. MDHS Collection

Schoolchildren who visit the museum are always impressed by the David's neat bookwork

                                       David was a sportsman and mate. MDHS Collection

(Following Joseph Anderson’s death)…….Kissock moved to Sydney with the children and purchased and managed a boarding house for ‘gentlemen studying for the ministry’ in Ultimo. ‘Lake View’ passed to other family members. David continued his education in Sydney, and became a manufacturing jeweller. He was also in the Scottish Rifles and a keen rugby player. Jill Byrnes

Family memories and photographs show us that the young student grew up loving Rugby. Here he is shown playing for Sydney teams.

Davis was a keen rugby player
Davis was a keen rugby player. Photo courtesy of Jill Byrnes
...and a real mate
…and a real mate. Photograph courtesy of Jill Byrnes

 

After looking at the beautifully neat, early exercise books, it is easy to see how that boy grew into a man who loved rugby, played the piano and also made fine jewellery.

David enjoyed playing the piano
David enjoyed playing the piano. Photograph courstesy of Jill Byrnes.

David Anderson also left a sweetheart behind. Like many, many men who went off to battle, David didn’t just leave family and friends behind. Esther, his beautiful sweetheart , was left behind.

David also left behind Esther, his sweetheart
David also left behind Esther, his sweetheart. Photograph courtesy of Jill Byrnes

This bright young man, loving son and brother; jeweller, rugby player, mate and boyfriend; left Australia to fight in those battlefields of Africa, Asia and Europe. David’s family never saw him again.

David’s family got the news that David was ‘missing in action’ but always hoped he would somehow return home one day. It took 98 years before David’s body was finally identified from the mass grave dug by the Germans behind their lines. Putting the story together, it appears David was one of those who broke through the formidable German defences and temporarily captured German trenches for some hours, before being encircled and killed. That is why he was in the grave dug by the Germans and not identified until 2014. Jill Byrnes

Showing David's ring
Family member, Jill Byrnes at David’s grave. Jill is proudly wearing a ring crafted by David. His beloved tartan can also be seen. Photograph courtesy of Jill Byrnes.

I am extremely privileged by being given a glimpse into the short life of Sergeant David Samuel Anderson. While the Ode has always touched me, it will really resonate with me this year. By looking at David’s intimate family photos, we are forced to realise the immensity of the sacrifice made by David and the many, many other Australians who went to war.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young. Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them. They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They shall sleep with honour as do we; For the Fallen Laurence Binyon Stanzas 2,3 and 4

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