Why it's taken 103 years to honour North Coast soldier
AT THIS year's Remembrance Day, a World War One digger from Byron Bay, almost forgotten, will at last be remembered.
Private John Francis Weir, from Byron Bay, served in the 55th battalion AIF and his name has this year been added to the Byron Bay Memorial after his family made the Byron Bay RSL Sub-Branch aware of his service.
"John's nephew, John Weir, and his wife, Betty, live in Carlyle St, Byron Bay," sub-branch president Rob Asquith said.
"His enlistment papers indicate his age as 21, however he was most likely under age as other documents show that his father had to give permission for him to join the AIF.
"Further documents recording his death in 1916 show that he was 20 years of age at death.
"He will be remembered with honour at our Remembrance Day service that will be held at 10.45am next Monday, November 11, at the Byron Bay Memorial at the corner of Marvell and Tennyson Sts."
John Francis Weir was the son of James and Mary Weir and he grew up in Byron Bay. At the time of his enlistment on October 16, 1915, he was working as a clerk of petty sessions in Murwillumbah.
"At the time, due to the awareness of the Gallipoli campaign, there was a vast increase in the amount of Australians volunteering for World War I service," Mr Asquith said.
"After the evacuation of Anzac, the AIF was doubled in size."
Private Weir embarked in Sydney on December 20, 1915, bound for Alexandria, arriving on February 15, 1916, then sailed to France, arriving in Marseilles on June 30, 1916.
The 55th Battalion ranks were filled by taking half the Gallipoli veterans of the 3rd Battalion and making up the other half with fresh recruits.
These recruits had arrived from Australia, mostly from NSW and not yet seen active service.
The 55th Battalion was transferred to the Western Front, arriving in France on June 30, 1916. Within two weeks they had entered the Western Front, taking part in the Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 1916.
"Fromelles was the worst disaster in Australian war when in one 24-hour period, 1817 men were killed in action and some 5000 casualties," Mr Asquith said.
"We are all aware of the bitter conditions of 1916, with men fighting from rain- soaked muddy trenches in the cold winter of France."
Records show that Private Weir was wounded and ill and was admitted to Le Toquet Red Cross hospital on December 1, 1916. He died on December 5, 1916.
He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in France.