WWI Hurstville digger remembered on 100th anniversary of his death

Hurstville WWI digger George Herbet Marett was remembered today on the 100th anniversary of his death at Passchendaele, Belgium with a special tribute by his grand-daughters.

George joined the Australian Rifle Regiment in 1916 and was sent to France as a reinforcement in the 2nd AIF the following year leaving behind his wife Maude Louise and children John,six and Amy, two in the family home in Park Street, Hurstville.

He was killed in battle on November 9, 1917. His body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypes along with the names of the other 6,000 Australians missing in Belgium.

Passchendaele saw 275,000 British casualties of whom 77,000 were killed.

Among the Australia there were 38,000 casualties with 12,000 dead in the space of three months.

George’s name is also on the war memorial at Hurstville and every Anzac Day his grand-daughters, Carolyn Dunn and Suzanne Gardner and their families lay a wreath under his name.

Today, on the 100th anniversary of his death, they made a special journey, Carolyn from Bowral and Suzanne from the Central Coast to lay a wreath and memorial tribute.

Carolyn and Suzanne are the daughters of George’s daughter, Amy.

“Our grandfather's name is on the monument at Hurstville and every year on Anzac Day  since his passing my grandmother placed flowers on the monument,” Suzanne said.

“When she passed my mother placed flowers and now that she has passed my sister and we continue to place flowers in his memory.

“For 100 years he has never been missed and it is sad to see each year on Anzac Day the number of wreaths are only a few.”

Although their grandfather is in an unknown grave, Suzanne and Carolyn believe they have found the approximate place where he rests.

“We went on a military tour to Belgium about ten years ago,” Carolyn said. “At the museum at Passchenaele we found pretty much where he had fallen. He was shot twice. The first time he was wounded in the arm and they took him to a clearing station where they patched him up. He was sent back to the trenches and he was going over the top when he was hit in the head by shrapnel. We think he is buried on the ridge at Zonnebeke.

“His name in on the Menin Gate. The local school has a sign ‘Never Forget Australia and every Anzac Day the school has an open day because if it wasn’t for our boys their town would have been taken and destroyed.”

George was born in Glebe on October 12, 1885. His parents came to Australia from the Channel Islands and George worked as a boilermaker at Garden Island before joining the army.

“A lot of the young men who went to war were in their 20s and didn’t have children. Our grandfather  was 33 and had two children,” Carolyn said.

“One of family has been here for Anzac Day every year for the past hundred years. When we were growing in Hustville every time we passed the memorial we would say a little prayer.”

Today, two of George’s great-grandchildren, Erron Gardner and Michelle Harrex, also attended the wreath-laying.

The family tradition continues. Carolyn’s son, Erron marched as a Scout in the Anzac Day parade and his sons Henry, 5 and Lawrence have also attended the parade.

“If it wasn’t for our grandfather none of us would be here. We are two of eight children. We always make sure there are flowers here on Anzac Day,” Suzanne said.

Carolyn added, “It’s a commemoration of him - to let people know that it’s not just flowers, that he was a person, he was someone’s husband and someone’s father.”

Suzanne said that for other families who lost someone in war that it is very important to pay honour to their name and what they fought for.

“In France the school children are taught all about WWI and there are paintings of soldiers on the classroom walls.”

This includes a wall-hanging of their grandfather that Suzanne and Carolyn presented to the school.

“Every year since he died, his wife lay a wreath at Hurstville monument near his name and for 100 years the family always laid a wreath.

“Now it is his grandchildren, then his great-grandchildren who will honour his name.

“We won’t be here forever so someone has to carry it on,”