Sue Paxton and Craig Backer at the grave of their relative, John Thomas Concannon, who served in World War I.
Sue Paxton and Craig Backer at the grave of their relative, John Thomas Concannon, who served in World War I.

Unmarked graves of Coast war heroes finally recognised

FOR decades, 21 men have been lying in unmarked graves at Fraser Coast cemeteries, their war service all but forgotten.

Now, thanks to a project funded by the Federal Government and carried out by Margaret Wroe and the Maryborough District Family History Society, the graves of those World War I heroes each have a plaque recognising their war service.

A ceremony was held at Maryborough Cemetery on Saturday to honour the soldiers, with relatives of five of the servicemen in attendance.

Sue Paxton and Craig Backer were there to honour their relative, John Thomas Concannon.

After serving in World War I, Mr Concannon returned home and married Mary Anne, with whom he had four children.

She was pregnant with their fifth child when he became ill and suddenly died at just 35.

He had enlisted in the war in early 1915, serving in the 25th Battalion, working his way from the rank of private to lieutenant.

John Thomas Concannon was just 35 when he died, leaving behind his pregnant wife and four children.
John Thomas Concannon was just 35 when he died, leaving behind his pregnant wife and four children.

Ms Paxton said it was a special moment for her family.

"It means a lot," she said.

"This has been fantastic, to get a sense of who he is."

Julie Arthur and David Geck were at the cemetery for their relative, Arthur George Cusack.

He was born in Liverpool, then enlisted for World War I in Brisbane when he was 24.

Before he became a soldier, Mr Cusack worked as a miner, so he was a perfect fit for the tunnelling company.

Little is known about his life after the war, except that he married in England in 1918 and died of bronchitis at the age of 47.

Ms Wroe was glad to see the families of five of the men in attendance.

The others had not lived locally, but had been here for work, she said.

Some had died with no family to bury them, which is how they came to be in unmarked public graves.

Ms Wroe came across a Federal Government pilot program online and thought it would be a worthwhile project for Maryborough.

She put in an application on behalf of Friends of the Maryborough Cemetery to honour the men.

"It's a wonderful thing - it's so respectful," she said.

Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien addressed those gathered and said it was an important day for the community.

"What we are essentially doing is righting a wrong," he said.

"These people have laid in their grave for some time with no acknowledgment and that is a terrible shame.

"We don't, as a nation celebrate war, we certainly don't do that.

"We acknowledge the incredible hardship and sacrifice that people like this experienced in going to war, particularly World War I, which was a horrific theatre.

"We are here today to acknowledge them by putting a headstone and their name to their grave."

Mayor George Seymour said he was conscious, when he visited the cemetery, that he was walking over many unmarked graves.

"(These are) people whose stories are yet to be fully memorialised," he said.

"I think of how important it is that we remember people.

"We know that what they did for us in our hour of need will not be forgotten."

A full list of the men whose graves have now been marked

MARYBOROUGH CEMETERY:

William Specht

John Charles Mallon

John Thomas Concannon

David Matthew King

John Wilton Daniel

Joseph John Emblidge

William Duggan

George Amos Ree

Arthur Edgar Henry Hughes

James Murray Lane Bayliff

Thomas Thomsen

James Craig Barr

Andrew Boal

Robert James Adam

Thomas William Fitzgerald

William Johnston

Charles Mays

Arthur George Cusack

John Thomas Styles

HOWARD CEMETERY:

William Muir Dick

TIARO CEMETERY:

Mason Claude Kelly Stringer