• Loddon Herald

Story of honour and respect

HAROLD Bryce Alexander was born and educated at Tarnagulla and his family lived in a house at the corner of Gladstone Street and the Wimmera Highway that still stands today.

Harold started work at 15, initially being employed by the post office in Bendigo, gaining the role after sitting the postal service entrance exam.

He enlisted in July 1915 listing his employment as a federal public servant in the government-controlled ports and railways. He was aged 22 and unmarried and living in Bendigo. During his military career he corresponded regularly with his sister and father, some of his letters with impressions of India and Sri Lanka were published in the local paper and make interesting reading, describing the difference he perceives in colonial India as it was and the new nation of Australia.

After basic training at Seymour, Private Alexander trained in wireless technology at the AIF Signal School and was posted to 1st ANZAC Wireless Section. Promoted corporal and then to sergeant by July 1916, he was definitely a young man of ability, drive and intelligence. Harold and his unit were sent to India to assist the British Indian Army to secure Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and protect the vital oilfields near Basra. It was a long and bitter fight in very harsh conditions and a very hostile climate.

In Mesopotamia, he became ill with fever and malaria and sent back to India to recuperate. Promoted to lieutenant, he returned to active duty and was discharged having served four years, returning to Australia very ill and dying in 1919 due to his war service.

It is there that I believe a story of honour and respect for the sacrifice of a fellow service person comes to the fore.

The ex-service community of Tarnagulla, men that only the previous year had been at the front and in the trenches themselves, hearing that Harold’s body was to be returned to Tarnagulla for burial, decided that Lt Alexander should be buried in a manner befitting his service, his rank, his exploits, bravery and achievements.

On the return of his mortal remains to Tarnagulla, they formed an honour guard wearing their full uniform that had so recently been put away, to conduct a farewell befitting the young man.

Prior to the cortege leaving for the cemetery, a flag was placed upon his coffin as a sign of respect and acknowledgement ... in a ceremony led by Sgt Kilgour DCM who commanded the squad, 16 returned soldiers clad in khaki and wearing slouch hats led the cortege that marched slowly carrying Lt Alexander to the cemetery.

On the procession’s arrival at the cemetery, he was carried by six men of Tarnagulla to his lest resting place and a graveside service and the placing of floral tributes on his grave.

His final farewell was the sounding of the Last Post, the last bugle call of the day signalling the day’s end, lights out.

Lt Alexander well done, your story told you have served your country well. Be at rest, you have made Tarnagulla proud.

* Edited extract of address by Paul Davis to the Tarnagulla Dawn Service on ANZAC Day.

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