ANZAC Services at Baverstock and Sutton Veny, Wiltshire
ANZAC Day at St Edith’s Baverstock, Wiltshire, UK
Anzac Day 2008 saw the third Anzac Day Service commemorated at St Edith’s Church Baverstock. The churchyard contains the graves of 32 World War 1 soldiers. Twenty nine of the graves belong to members of the first AIF including two Gallipoli veterans.
Prior to the evening service local school children visited the churchyard to discover the story behind the 29 Australians buried so far from home.
LEST WE FORGET
Anzac Service, Sutton Veny Sunday 27th April 2008
Why have an Anzac Service at Sutton Veny? The Minister of Veterans Affairs Department, Australia explains:
An Australian base depot, rest house and hospital were located at Sutton Veny during and shortly after World War I. Every year, the community holds an Anzac Day service commemorating, in particular, the 143 Australians buried in the village cemetery.
In 1916, No 1 Australian Command Depot was established at Sutton Veny and remained until 1919. It was a holding unit for men proceeding to the Western Front – mostly reinforcements who had trained on nearby Salisbury Plain and others recovered from hospital treatment. Men from all States passed through the depot. Many would have become acquainted with Sutton Veny’s attractions, such as pubs and cinemas, with the antipodean troops well regarded by villagers.
The Australian YMCA operated a rest house for war weary troops at Greenhill House, now known as Sutton Veny House. With over 50 rooms, the mansion accommodated men on leave or recovering from wounds and illnesses, its lawns and grounds a haven from the war zone.
After the Armistice, the 1st Australian General Hospital moved to Sutton Veny and treated wounded and sick troops until late 1919. Many of the 143 Australians interred in the cemetery at St John the Evangelist Church were patients, and two were nurses, with 101 deaths from the Spanish Flu outbreak after the Armistice. Tragically, many, like Lieutenant John Laidlaw DCM, had survived the horrors of trench warfare only to succumb at this stage.
By early 1920, the Australians had departed. Even before then, school children had begun decorating the war graves at St John the Evangelist Church with flowers. This custom continues, and the community holds an Anzac Day service every year attended by locals, consular officials from Australia House, and other Australians. Inside the church, a side chapel was dedicated as the Anzac Chapel and Australian and New Zealand flags hang there permanently. Additional decorations include an embroidered Anzac badge and a framed list of the Australians buried in the churchyard.
Of course, Sutton Veny also remembers its own war dead, with a war memorial visible from the churchyard. As if reinforcing the bond between Australia and Sutton Veny, one of those listed on the memorial is Private Arthur Pond, 11th Battalion AIF, who emigrated before World War I and enlisted at Perth, Western Australia, in 1916. He was killed in action at Lihons on 10 August 1918 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France, and on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.