Remembrance Day in Port Stephens includes soil collections services

Port Stephens marked Remembrance Day on Saturday in services at Nelson Bay, Tanilba Bay, Medowie, Karuah and Raymond Terrace.

About 80 people attended the Raymond Terrace service where men, women and children remembered Private Charles Wattus, just one of the 38,000 Australians killed at Passchendale.

Of Leigh Farm, Raymond Terrace, Private Wattus has already served three years in the Light Horse when World War I begun. 

A laborer standing five feet, six inches, of fair complexion, brown hair and grey eyes, he instead enlisted in the infantry on October 1916.

He was killed in action on October 1, 1917, and while the exact circumstances aren’t known, his battalion sustained heavy artillery fire whole holding the line to the right of Polygon Wood. His name is among the 113 on the Raymond Terrace memorial.

“Today Charles represents all of them; and they are one of us,” Raymond Terrace RSL Sub Branch president Vic Jones said.

“Remembrance Day is an occasion to commemorate and remember all Australians who have died or still suffer as a result of war or conflict.”

Those services held across Australia on Saturday marked the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day – now Remembrance Day – which marks the day the guns fell silent on the Western Front, on Novemeber 11, 1918.

To mark the centenary in 2018 the ANZAC Memorial at Hyde Park has begun a collection of soil from the enlistment places on men and women in WWI.

Nelson Bay and Raymond Terrace conducted collections on Saturday morning at the end of the service.

In Raymond Terrace, Val Mason, the niece of Private Wattus, was invited to help collect the soil, along with Cr Giacomo Arnott.

The soil will form an art work at the Sydney memorial.

“It’s very different what they are doing,” Mrs Mason said.

“The soil samples like the men and women are all different but they come from the one place, Australia, and they all fought for the same thing.”

She and her late husband Stanley visited the Menin Gate at Ypres in 1988.

“We were the first of the family to go and see Charlie’s name on the memorial,” Mrs Mason said.

“My niece went this year and also saw his name on the gate, so the tradition lives on.”

Cr Arnott said it was an honour to be part of history on Saturday.

“It’s great that Raymond Terrace could be represent in this way,” he said.

“Vic, as the head of the RSL here had done us all proud in organising this.”