On December 27, 2017 it was 100 years ago that former Wilby resident Allan McColl, as Sergeant Allan McColl M.M. was tragically killed in action in Belgium, in the 1914-18 First World War while serving Australia.
Yarrawonga resident Bill McColl, 84, joined former Navy man Bill O’Day OAM and Vietnam veteran Trevor Hargreaves in Belmore Street to reflect on the occasion.
The venue was the corner of Belmore and Orr Streets where a monument was erected and a Kurrajong tree planted in honour of Sgt. McColl.
“He was my dad’s brother. I never got to meet him,” Bill, who was a farm hand out Katamatite way, said of his late uncle.
“It’s a great gesture to have this monument, plaque and tree in Sgt. McColl’s name.”
As Yarrawonga Mulwala RSL Sub Branch President at the time, Mr Hargreaves was keen to have formal recognition in a public place in respect of Sgt. McColl.
“He was born out at Wilby, reared at Wilby, went to war and died of his wounds 100 years ago,” Mr Hargreaves said.
“My son Marcus, Tony Nieuwenhout (OAM) and I organised that recognition about 15 years ago.”
Sgt. McColl served in 2nd Aust. Infantry, 8th Battalion, 3555, AIF.
Canberra War Memorial Records in respect of Sgt. McColl’s Military Medal states: “On the night of 22 December (1917) in front of Wysschaete a mule team with engineers pontoon wagon stampeded along a road leading right into the enemy’s line. The move immediately drew down a smart enemy barrage and the Driver was knocked out of the saddle by the concussion of a shell. The wagon was loaded with cupolas and made considerable noise and the enemy opened up a heavy machine gun as well as artillery fire. All working parties were forced to take cover.
“Sgt. McColl was in charge of a party working near a road and as the runaways came close to the line, he dashed out in the open under heavy fire and, after being dragged for some distance, he succeeded in pulling the team up, receiving a machine gun bullet through the body just as he did so. Though very seriously wounded he hung on the mules and held them until help arrived.
“This gallant action and self sacrifice were the means of saving the team and the wagon, and also averted serious complications for the wiring parties and the garrison of the front line.”
RSL’s Century of Service
The Yarrawonga Mulwala RSL was formed on March, 28 1918, meaning the Sub-Branch is due to celebrate its 100 year anniversary in coming months.
In its centenary year the sub- branch is still an integral part of the community so naturally some acknowledgement of that will be made and it will be a big year for the Branch.
On February 5 1915, the Hospital Ship “Kyarra” reached Australia carrying invalid Australian soldiers home from Egypt.
On that day the history of the RSL began, for in hindsight, it is clear that the common bond of comradeship and mutual respect now so evident within the League had its simple origin in the close association of a small group of men who were first to fall victim to the strain of Active Service in the Great War.
A Returned Soldiers Association was soon formed in Melbourne.
Similar associations developed in all states.
On June 3 1916 the various groups combined to form the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) with headquarters in Melbourne.
Its aims were simple: to preserve the spirit of mateship formed amidst the carnage and horror of battle; to honour the memory of the fallen; and to help each other. The underlying philosophy of the League was mateship, and this is as true now as it was then.
In 1916 there was no welfare services such as we know today so the league committed itself to provide for the sick, wounded and needy among those who had served and their dependants including pensions, medical attention, homes and suitable employment.
Thus, the RSL was instrumental in the creation of the medical repatriation system and the introduction of service, disability and war widows pension.
In effect the RSL was the first national veteran’s welfare agency in Australia and continues to maintain welfare as its prime function.
There have been various name changes over the years; the first in 1940 to give our Airmen a mention.
The last name change in 1990 reflects the fact that membership is now open to all ex-servicemen and women with no requirement that they be returned from active service.
Additionally, in Victorian SubBranches Affiliate Membership of the RSL is available to the relatives of ex-servicemen and women and those members of the police and other emergency services.
The Yarrawonga Mulwala RSL Sub-Branch with 380 members is one of 280 Victorian Sub-Branches.
The RSL remains non- sectarian and non- partison in relation to party politics and is as relevant today as in 1916.