Must be the time of year

There are a few articles like the one that appeared in the Sun-Herald today that tend to appear around this time of year. This one tells the story of a man named Fred Reeves, a Digger killed at Gallipoli in 1915. Or rather it tells the story of how an interested descendant – a great niece in this case – pieced together Fred’s story.

More power to Judy McLeod’s elbow, I say. She started with a name in a family Bible and a hunch that the date given with the name – 1915 – could have been connected with the First World War. She was right. He had been killed in Gallipoli and has no known grave.

“I am glad I looked into this otherwise he would just be another statistic. There is nobody to even say he existed and fought and died for his country.” – Judy McLeod, great niece of Australian infantryman Fred Reeve

This quote for me is the most important part of the article. Through the curiosity of one interested individual, almost a century later, the name scribbled into the Bible has come to life.

There has been a real resurgence in interest in this sort of family research in recent years. Indeed, my own work could be said to be part of it as well. I put it down to a couple of happy coincidences. Perhaps the salient one from a practical point of view has been the information and speed of communications that comes from the internet. It’s become much more accessible to the average person and so it’s easier to turn an idle curiosity into a keen family history interest. We can find records online that previously would have involved letters to archives overseas, if not an actual trip overseas. Investigations that previously would have taken months can now find answers from the other side of the world in literally minutes. In short, people can work in the comfort of their own homes, without having to pore through musty files in some record depository somewhere (though some (like me) might say that doing that is what it’s all about anyway!).

The other factor, more relevant in this case than in my own work into the crew of B for Baker, is the upcoming centenary of the Gallipoli landings in four years time. It means that ANZAC Day is receiving more and more media coverage each year. There are no WWI veterans alive in Australia anymore, but there are more and more people investigating family connections to the conflict – giving names and stories to their own ‘man in the photograph’. For remembering men like Fred Reeves, who would otherwise as Judy McLeod said be just another statistic, this can only be a good thing.

© 2011 Adam Purcell

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