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Ryde District Historical Society and ‘Ryde Goes to War’

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (16:16): I rise to inform the House of the wonderful contribution made to the Bennelong electorate by the Ryde District Historical Society. Based out of Willandra, an early settlers cottage, over the last 54 years, they have explored and opened up the rich history of the local area. Like many other organisations in my electorate, the society received an Anzac Centenary grant from this government, which was dedicated to the creation of the definitive source on Ryde’s involvement in World War I. Their book Ryde Goes to War is the rIMG_4676 compressedesult of this effort.

It is a compendium of such range that I am amazed at the results and cannot comprehend the effort that must have been involved in its compilation. Two thousand men and women from Ryde joined our armed forces between 1914 and 1918. This is a staggering proportion from just 3,500 dwellings in the area at the time. This book has named each one of these soldiers and the rank, file number and status for the overwhelming majority. But, staggeringly, it has also dedicated between one and two pages to a brief biography of over 200 soldiers and nurses, many complete with photographs.

These biographies reach deep into history to provide fine details of the diggers’ lives. You can read about the Elliot twins, who found themselves in different hospitals on different fronts, one with disease and the other wounded by bullets, or about Matron Bessie Pocock, a Boer War veteran who volunteered in 1914 and presided over a hospital ship in the retreat from Gallipoli. Louise Markus is the member for Macquarie. Her grandfather TH Tyrrell is in the book. The tales describe the rich variety of Anzac experiences and were compiled over four years of painstaking work. Resources included memorials, newspapers and memories of loved ones.

The book represents a colossal effort from all involved, and I heartily congratulate its authors on their valuable contribution. They have provided a copy of their publication to every school in the area, which will provide an incomparable resource in the years to come. The book focuses on the local connections of these soldiers, and students will be able to read about diggers who went to their school or lived in their street. They can find commonality with their lives that will make this vital piece of Australian history come alive.

Every year, we promise that ‘we will remember them’. While we honour their collective sacrifices, we have a very limited understanding of who ‘they’ were and what drove them, inspired them, scared and scarred them. This book answers these questions and ensures that the memory of these brave Australians will live forever.