Moving tribute honors those who served and the fallen

Nurse Cheryl Trudinger in her replica WWI uniform at the Remembrance Day poppy wall.

Thousands of poppies bloomed at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals to mark Remembrance Day 2018 and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

More than 50 community groups and individuals created the knitted, crocheted and hand-sewn poppies, which were ‘planted’ in the hospitals’ ANZAC Memorial Gardens, used to adorn commemorative wreaths, and strung in the Blacktown main entry to create a poppy wall.

Admin Officer Joanne at Mount Druitt Hospital.

Project coordinator Lilly Dolenec said the moving tribute was an opportunity to acknowledge the role of medical staff and the contribution of local community members.

“We wanted to particularly acknowledge those who served in medical and nursing roles including medics, ambulance drivers, stretcher-bearers and volunteers in all conflicts and peacekeeping missions,” Ms Dolenec said.

“Blacktown also has a long history of service and we know that in 1914, out of a population of about 6,000 people, 878 servicemen enlisted and 131 died.”

Once the conflict was over, the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields. The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem In Flanders Fields, which was read at the memorial services.

Poppymakers and guests at the Blacktown event. 

The services also included a laying of wreaths which one purple poppy for war service animals, and one white poppy for peace.

Nurse Cheryl Trudinger (pictured above) wore her WWI nurses’ uniform, and volunteers read an excerpt of a letter by poppymaker Noela Cohen, of Greystanes.

“I am dedicating my poppy to my late uncle John Richard Murray, number 122 34th Battalion Private A.I.F. who was a farmer from the Maitland area who enlisted in February 1916,” Mrs Cohen wrote.

“He did not stand a chance.  He was wounded on October the third, 1917, and died two days later. With modern medicine, today we can recover from a serious illness in five days.

“I turn 83 this year. I have lived a full and happy life. So many young souls of that war did not get the chance to marry their sweethearts or raise a family like we did.Thank you for giving me a chance to contribute to this project. We will remember them. Lest we forget,” Mrs Cohen wrote.

The dedicated poppies were strung on the poppy wall inside the hospital and include a flower made by Chris Tracy to commemorate ambulance officer Cyril Cedric Dutfield, who was killed World War II when the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur was sunk by Japanese bombs off the cost of Queensland.

Volunteer Chris Tracy with her dedicated poppy.

“We received poppies dedicated to young men who had died in Gallipoli, to local nurses who served in WWI, and to family member and friends,” Ms Dolenec said.

“The response has been overwhelming and we are so proud to mark this occasion with our wonderful volunteers, staff and community members,” she said.

The poppies will remain in place until the end of November, when they will be removed to create a new commemorative display next year.

The project was part of the 5000 Poppies worldwide community tribute of respect and remembrance. 

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