A large crowd gathered in Armidale yesterday for a formal military graveside dedication service for Gallipoli veteran Trooper Harry Fry, whose remains had been in an unmarked pauper’s grave for 83 years.
The ceremony for the digger fittingly took place on Remembrance Day, in the Anglican portion of the Armidale Lawn Cemetery.
Trooper Harry Fry was born on September 25, 1866, and enlisted on November 4, 1914. He served in the AIF 5th Light Horse Regiment, A Squadron, and served at Gallipoli from May 19, 1915, until evacuated on July 18, 1915. He returned to Australia on December 21, 1915, and was medically discharged on April 12, 1916.
He died on March 5, 1929, in the Armidale District Hospital.
After more than 15 years of searching, Harry’s great grand-niece, Lila Vincent, with the assistance of the New England Heritage Centre and Armidale Dumaresq Council, located Harry’s resting place in an unmarked grave at the Armidale Cemetery.
In mid-2012, the Australian War Graves Commission had a headstone put in place.
Through the assistance of Bill Oates of the Heritage Centre at the University of New England, Mrs Vincent found Trooper Fry’s burial place and other details in the past 12 months.
Until then, no Armidale Cemetery records showed that Harry was buried there. Then, the Department of Veterans Affairs, through the Office of Australian War Graves, placed the bronze memorial plaque.
Lila, 74, and husband Tom, 75, came down from the Gold Coast to attend the military graveside dedication service for Trooper Fry.
Nine family members came from Queensland and Sydney.
The broad community representation included the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers, local RSL members and the National Servicemen’s Association, Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay and Armidale Dumaresq Council mayor Jim Maher.
Warrant Officer Class Two Wayne Bulmer is a training sergeant major at the Gaza Training Depot in Armidale within the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers and coordinated the military role in the rare service.
“It included military members in uniform, a firing party, a military padre, the Last Post and more. This was a chance for the family and this community to pay their respects to one of our fallen soldiers, a Gallipoli veteran who had been left in an unmarked grave for 83 years,” he said.
Lila and Tom Vincent said they were overwhelmed by the community support in completing their family history and at the ceremony.
“It means a great deal to our family, especially after so many years of searching. We are very proud, Mrs Vincent said.
“Our gratitude goes out to everyone involved, from Piddington’s Funeral Directors to the council and the New England Heritage Centre.”
When three rounds were fired by the 12 members of the firing party, it was loud and clear that Trooper Harry Fry had finally received the military send-off he deserved.
Harry Fry was born in Gloucestershire and arrived in Townsville on January 23, 1877, with his mother, stepfather Arthur Davis, three brothers and one sister, with two older brothers having arrived in Australia in 1874.
They were working on the building of the rail line from Sydney to the Queensland border and the rest of the family joined them.
By 1885, the whole family were at Bolivia Railway Station, about 30km south of Tenterfield, working on the rail line, with Harry aged 19 at that time.
In the 1891 NSW Census, Harry was living at the Railway Camp Newcastle, where he and his brother, Charles, were working on railway construction.
From about 1893 to 1914, he worked at the gold mines in the Ewingsdale area near Mullumbimby.
Harry enlisted in the army at Mullumbimby on November 4, 1914, for WWI, giving his age on enlistment as 43, when in fact he had just had his 48th birthday in September of that year (the lie making him below the age limit for enlistment).
He was sent to Enoggera to join the 5th Light Horse Regiment and left Australia for Egypt on December 21, 1914 on the ship HMAT Persic.
He went with the 5th Light Horse Regiment when they landed at Gallipoli.
On June 28, 1915, Harry was seriously wounded by a mortar explosion during the attack on the Turkish-held Balkan Gun Pits. He was evacuated to a hospital ship, then eventually to Malta, then England, where he was a patient at King George Hospital in London, before returning to Australia on November 25, 1915.
His wound having healed, but still suffering from shell shock, he arrived home in Australia on December 21, 1915.
Harry was discharged as “medically unfit for further active service” on April 12, 1916, due to his wounds, diagnosed as still suffering from shell shock, and was granted a pension by Repatriation Department of three pounds per fortnight, which was reduced in February 1917 to two pounds five shillings per fortnight.
In the years from 1916 to 1928, Harry moved around a lot. He grew bananas in the Cooroy district for a while in 1917/18, and later again in the early 1920s, and is believed to have also worked in various mining or other laboring type jobs.
He was living in Mullumbimby at least until June 1928, when he told the local RSL he was about to move to Armidale.
Harry died in Armidale Hospital of heart disease on March 5, 1929, at the age of almost 63, and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave, paid for by the NSW Police, at a cost of seven pounds. Church of England minister Mr G Baker conducted the funeral service.
The police did not inform his sister, Ellen, that he had died. She was still living in Cooroy in Queensland and was his next of kin, recorded in his army and Repatriation Department files.