Walking into WWI history

ARMIDALE’S Anita Yeoman will tread the shores of Anzac Cove and walk in her grandfather’s footsteps after winning a double pass in the ballot to attend the Gallipoli centenary dawn service next year.

OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME: Armidale’s Anita and Ken Yeoman are among a handful from the region selected to go to the Anzac Day centenary dawn service next year. Photo: Matt Bedford

OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME: Armidale’s Anita and Ken Yeoman are among a handful from the region selected to go to the Anzac Day centenary dawn service next year. Photo: Matt Bedford

The elation of her successful ballot came as her mother, who told her of her grandfather’s Gallipoli campaign, died just three weeks before she received the tickets. 

Mrs Yeoman will make the journey to Gallipoli with daughter Rosie Abel – who submitted the application for their tickets – and her husband Ken.

She is one of only 8000 people chosen to attend the service.

More than 42,000 hopefuls entered the ballot, with preference given to direct descendants of servicemen. 

But as they only have two tickets, just the mother and daughter will attend the dawn service. 

Ms Abel said it was an honour to be selected to attend.

“We only submitted our application on the last day,” she said. 

“I have never won anything before and still can’t believe we’re going.”

For Mrs Yeoman the journey will be a very personal one. 

Both her grandfather Ronald Alexander, and great-uncle Percy Alexander, served at Gallipoli and learning her family history has been a lifelong interest. 

Last year she travelled to the Australian War Memorial to further research her family’s service history. 

“Attending the war memorial was moving,” she said. 

“But to actually stand on the spot where my grandfather served will be something very special.” 

Stories of the Great War were commonly told in Mrs Yeoman’s family and she was often referred to as “the child that was never meant to be” because of her grandfather’s close call with death during the war. 

“After my grandfather and his brother Percy survived Gallipoli, they were posted to the Western Front,” she said. 

One such story goes that before Mr Alexander enlisted in 1914 he promised his wife-to-be he would regularly write her letters. 

True to his word, Mr Alexander had photographs taken of himself to send home as postcards, which he kept in his left front pocket, along with his  wallet. 

During the Battle of the Somme on the Western Front he was shot in the chest by a German sniper. 

The bullet ricocheted downward off his postcards, missing his heart and exiting above his groin. 

After months of recovery in Belgium, he returned to Australia and his story has become a family legend. 

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