The battle rages on, not in bullets and bombs, but in the erosion of memory by time. After 99 years, does anyone remember you? It seems the folk at the Returned Services League sub-branch in Port Pirie have taken up arms to prevent the loss of vital memories such as those surrounding Lance Corporal William Arthur Burt.
Digging deep into the archives, amid the imagined shouts of combat and staccato gunfire, Gail Swanton produced records of Lance Corporal Burt who was killed in action on April 25, 1918, the date of Anzac Day, while he was taking part in an attack to dislodge German troops from Villers Bretonneux in World War I.
Lance Corporal Burt – and his brother Sergeant Cecil Elijah Roy Burt – were from Port Pirie, growing up with parents Elijah and Martha Burt, of Three Chain Road.
When the men polished their boots and cleaned their weapons in separate battalions, neither would have known that one of them would die and the other, Cecil, would win a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his exploits later that year in the war.
Cecil returned to Australia in June, 1919, but nothing is known of his burial place. Gail has searched the Port Pirie cemetery records for his gravesite, but without luck. Inquiries with South Australian burial records have also drawn a blank. “He could have gone anywhere when he came back to Australia,” she said. But Gail has waged the good fight, preferring to leave no stone unturned in the quest for knowledge and memories.
For all the words and photographs published about war, it is for only a chosen few to know the real reasons that personnel enter battle. The clash between North Korea and the United States is the subject of high-security considerations by both sides. The US would have looked ahead several “moves” in the deadly nuclear chess game with the endgame known to just a few. - Greg Mayfield