The Farrell brothers

by Amanda Swadling

On 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent in on the Western Front, signalling the surrender of the German army and the end of the First World War. Dreadful losses had been sustained during the conflict which had lasted over four years. Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day, became an annual ceremony, with communities gathering at local war memorials to remember those who had been affected by this terrible conflict.

Wreaths cover the Stone of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial, November 1946 Photographer: D.H. Wilson.

Having become prevalent after the First World War, memorials are now a common feature of many Australian towns. They are an important location for communities to express their sorrow and pay respects to those who have served in conflicts. They are a focal point for commemorative ceremonies such as Remembrance Day and Anzac Day, when wreaths and flowers are placed on or around the memorials as a symbol of remembrance. 

A First World War  Memorial with fresh wreaths in Paterson, New South Wales.

Local war memorials often give a glimpse of the past through the names inscribed on their surface. In Garvoc, Victoria, an Honour Roll in the local hall includes community members who served during the First World War. Corporal John Herbert Farrell and Trooper Michael Thomas Farrell were brothers from the area who enlisted a year apart. Michael died of wounds in Palestine in 1918, while his brother survived the war and returned to Australia in 1919. On their return, a woodblock print commemorating the brothers was created, and their names were added to the Garvoc Honour Roll. These are just two of many names inscribed on the plaque, each with its own story.

Woodblock print commemorating the service of Corporal John Herbert Farrell and Trooper Michael Thomas Farrell.

Portrait of Private Michael Thomas Farrell.

Although there are COVID-19-related restrictions on group gatherings on Remembrance Day this year, local war memorials are present in many communities. The Memorial’s Places of Pride  is hoping to record the location of every publicly accessible war memorial in Australia, giving communities and individuals the chance to explore, research and record local war memorials. This act of remembrance can be achieved at any time, helping to uncover the stories of Australians such as John and Michael Farrell.