Mark of respect as more than 100 honour Simpkins

President of the Murwillumbah RSL Sub Branch, Mr Derek Sims, OAM, speaks to Sue McGarva, a close family friend of Pte Harry Simpkins MM. Photo: contributed
President of the Murwillumbah RSL Sub Branch, Mr Derek Sims, OAM, speaks to Sue McGarva, a close family friend of Pte Harry Simpkins MM. Photo: contributed contributed

REMEMBRANCE Day sprit at Murwillumbah was in no way dampened by soggy weather.

More than 100 people gathered for a special rededication ceremony for coloured First World War veteran Private Henry Simpkins.

His new headstone at his grave was acknowledged by family and strangers at a special 9am service.

The Bray Park cemetery is where his unmarked grave lay for almost 50 years.

Murwillumbah RSL Sub-Branch secretary Kevin Cheetham said it was a great response to 14 months of planning, fundraising and researching.

"The response was excellent," he said.

"It was like a big family reunion, some of the people there hadn't seen each other for forty something years."

Although many relatives on Pte Simpkin's side of the family were there, the club were unable to track down any of his daughter's side of the family.

"We've hit a blank wall there with the wife and daughter," he said.

"After they separated no one knows what happened.

"But I was still really chuffed about the whole morning.

"He finally got the send off he deserved."

It took a lot of time and effort to raise the $3000 to pay for the new headstone.

"The unmarked burial place was bought to our attention by Sue McGarva late last year," he said.

"Following unsuccessful applications to both the War Graves Commission and the Department of Veteran's Affairs for a proper grave and headstone for this WWI veteran, it was decided by the Sub Branch to proceed regardless.

"The $3000cost of the grave was raised by the Murwillumbah RSL Sub Branch, Kingscliff RSL Sub Branch, Murwillumbah Services Memorial Club and the Murwillumbah Men's Veterans Golf Club."

For now the sub branch are taking a "bit of a spell" and plan to get back on the events bandwagon in the lead up to the centenary of Gallipoli.

Topics:  remembrance day rsl

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