A feud over two words that threatened the legacy of a local indigenous war hero has been resolved, after the NSW Veterans’ Affairs agreed to have the wording changed.
Recently decorated Gomeroi soldier William Allan Irwin was the only one selected out of 24,000 NSW soldiers buried overseas, to have their headstone replicated and story told in the new wing of the Hyde Park Anzac Memorial.
Those actions have been capturing the hearts and minds of Australians ever since, which is why senior curator Brad Manera chose his headstone and story.
“I chose William Allan because he was an extraordinary and very gallant soldier, but he was also a great character and a bit of a ratbag – he was a typical hard-fighting, good Aussie soldier,” he said.
“I have taken thousands of people to his grave in Daours, and wanted to use the display to show people what can be found overseas, and make a new generation aware of why we have memorials in Australia.”
The new memorial and centre will open to the public on November 11, however a handful of Pte Irwin’s descendants were among 600 to attend a private opening, alongside Prince Harry recently.
While they were “honoured and privileged”, they were also surprised to see that in the transcript the DCM winner’s birthplace was marked as Darling, instead of Coonabarabran, while the word “destroyed” was used rather than the preferred “captured”, in a nod to the soldier’s compassion. There was also some conjecture surrounding the spelling: Allan or Allen.
Pte Irwin’s great-nephew Peter Milliken said: “It is an absolute honour to have it in there; however, it would just be nice to have the right information with it.”
Following a week of emails and phone calls between Mr Milliken and Mr Manera the feud boiled over when Mr Manera threatened to remove the entire display, citing that the funding wasn’t there to change the errors.
On Tuesday afternoon, NSW Veterans’ Affairs ended the stoush by offering to replace the panel with the adjustments.
Director of Veterans Affairs Caroline Mackaness said that the errors had been simple misunderstandings.
“It was really important to get the right outcome, so we will replace the panel and also add more information online,” she said.
“The memorial is delighted to have the replica headstone on display, it is a key feature and tells a powerful story.”
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