Crosses for lost soldiers
MIKE Lee’s uncle Leonard was just 19 years old when he enlisted in the armed forces.
He was promised to see the world, but instead was killed on the very first day of battle at Pozieres in France, aged just 20 years old.
Mr Lee, vice-president of the Pozieres Remembrance Association, and his wife Lyn have been working with a group of volunteers to establish a memorial garden in the French village for the more than 7000 Australians who died in the tragic battle, which began on July 23, 1916.
Of those men, about 4000 were never found, including his uncle.
The Kingscliff residents currently have 7000 white crosses and 7000 knitted poppies ready to ship over.
“There was 24,000 people killed in that battle,” Mr Lee said.
“For many of them, this will be the first time someone has put a cross in the ground for them.”
Mr Lee’s mother was just three-years-old when her older brother, Leonard Irvine Hines, who grew up in Zara near Chillingham, left to go to war.
“He was one of the guys that wanted to see the world,” Mr Lee said.
“But he was killed on the first day of battle.”
The couple visited the town in 2011 for one of its annual battle remembrance services, and expect the memorial garden to be in place for the centenary this July. Even in summer, he said it was “bitterly cold” and stiffened at the thought of his uncle in a flooded trench all those years ago.
Mr Lee said the crosses, which would be arranged in the “rising sun” design, would be in place in time for celebrations to mark the centenary. He will travel there to install the crosses.
“It’ll mean a hell of a lot to me,” he said.
Ms Lee said she began knitting poppies while on holidays at the start of last year and has since rallied a great deal of support from craft groups.
“We were coming back across the Nullarbor in January 2015 when I started the poppies, and it just flowed from there,” she said.
“It’s been a team effort.”
The crosses were hand-painted on the Lees’ back verandah in Kingscliff.
Visit: pozieres remembered.com.au.