Over 100 years ago, the 17-year-old son of one of Tamworth’s founding families fell in Belgium. Recently his story came to light when a long-lost relative found a funeral note and dug into the research. What she found was amazing. Here, we look back to our story from June 8 last year. Meet one of the oldest Faces of Tamworth, Cecil Wise, a true war hero,
On Saturday a Belgian stranger will be placing a photo, an Australian flag and a poppy on the grave of a Tamworth man he never knew, 100 years to the day after he fell on foreign soil.
Cecil Sharp Wise was 17 years old when he enlisted to fight in WWI, joining his older brothers James Peel Wise, who served in Gallipoli, and Ernest Edward Wise who also served in the army.
The two brothers managed to return home, unlike Cecil, who fell on the fourth day of the Battle of Messines, near the city of Ypres, where his and thousands of other names are enshrined on the Menin Gate, while his headstone is nearby in the quaint Toronto Avenue Cemetery.
Cecil was the youngest son of Amelia Kate Wise nee Muggleton and William Wise, and according to Amelia’s great great granddaughter Christine Anderson, the Muggletons were a foundation family of Tamworth.
Cecil’s story came to light when Mrs Anderson’s grandmother passed away and she found Cecil’s death notice from The Leader’s forbear, The Daily Observer, in a biscuit tin, and ever since Cecil’s story has been an obsession – fortunately Mrs Anderson is a professional researcher.
“There were no photos of him, but I had to put a face to this young boy who had traveled thousands of miles to fight – I had to do it,” Ms Anderson said.
“Six weeks ago I found an illustration from the Tamworth paper that had his photo in it and I went from there – it is like it was meant to be for the 100th anniversary of his death.”
From there Ms Anderson discovered a program which sees local Belgian citizens adopt a war grave, looking after it, and honouring the men that fell.
“Cecil is the youngest in the cemetery, that is why Jackie chose him. He has sent me pictures of the headstone but won’t send me any pictures of himself. He says it is not about him but the men that fought and died to give them their freedom,” Ms Anderson said.
“I have sent a photo to put on Cecil’s grave because there are no other photos of him.
“He has never had a photo, and never had a face, finally we can give him one.”