Anzac Day centenary set to snub Freo

• SNUBBED: Museum artillery barracks chair Graham McEwan says WA volunteers are disappointed with the lack of federal funds commemorating WA’s role in the Anzac campaign of WWI.

• SNUBBED: Museum artillery barracks chair Graham McEwan says WA volunteers are disappointed with the lack of federal funds commemorating WA’s role in the Anzac campaign of WWI.

NEARLY all the WA diggers who joined the first Anzac convoy from Albany to Turkey in 1914 embarked at Fremantle.

Most waited for two days on two ships anchored in Gages Road and took part in most of the major battles on the Gallipoli peninsula. Many never came home.

Yet the lion’s share of federal Gallipoli centenary funding has gone to Albany where the Australian and NZ troops left Australia as a single Imperial force.

The decision has left WA volunteers seriously short of cash to commemorate 1914-1915.

“The focus is going to be on Albany, but all of WA’s troops left from Freo,” museum artillery barracks chairman Graham McEwan told the Herald.

“All the federal money has been spent in Albany while we have to ask the state government to compensate for a lack of centenary funds.”

On October 31, 1914, the day before the convoy left Albany, two transport ships anchored in Gages Road—Ascanius with WA 11th Infantry Battalion and Medic with WA 8th Field Artillery Battery.

Mr McEwan says the WA contingent waited two days for the Albany convoy; one man became so bored he jumped ship and swam to shore to get drunk, missing the convoy.

He says the WA troops had trained at Blackboy Hill in Greenmount, travelling to Fremantle by train.

Images of the men and details of their departure from Fremantle and the largely unrecognised history of Blackboy Hill are documented on the Army Museum’s newly painted walls.

Mr McEwan says the museum started planning its centenary events in 2007 and has managed to raise $2.5 million, mostly lottery grants.

Other sites and groups around WA have not been as fortunate despite their part in the birth of the Anzac legend.

Federal Fremantle Labor MP Melissa Parke says it is disappointing the Abbott government is yet to commit support for a planned commemorative event on Fremantle wharf.

She says the event marking the departure of WA troops is expected to be held on Victoria Quay on October 31: “This will be the principal opportunity for the majority of people in WA to remember the Anzacs who departed a century ago, and to remind ourselves of the terrible cost and waste of war.

“Funding for that event remains a critical issue and it is disappointing that the Abbott government is yet to commit its support.”

She says Fremantle council successfully applied for $41,000, but was disappointed, “the federal government is not inclined to come forward with specific funding for the entire event”.

Ms Parke and state Labor MP Simone McGurk have written to the WA premier and federal veteran affairs minister stating Perth people are “unlikely to travel to Albany” for commemorations.

Colin Barnett replied in March, stating government plans will ensure wider participation, “engaging school children and those that cannot travel to Albany”.

by CARMELO AMALFI

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