Tragedies are calamitous, lamentable and often fatal. What makes some so poignant is the youth of those involved and an element of the avoidable. The Kapooka Tragedy is aptly named.
(From the introduction, The Kapooka Tragedy: remembering 21 May 1945)
It was the Australian Army’s worst accident, a tragedy so grim and gruesome it tore open the heart of a country town.
“On the 21st of May 1945, in a single blinding flash of gelignite, 26 young lives were snuffed out in an underground bunker.
When they buried the victims three days later,[i] half the population of Wagga – 7000 men, women and children – lined the streets to bow their heads at the passing parade of coffins. It remains to this day the Nation’s largest military funeral.
But then something strange happened: Australia forgot”.
They will remain in our hearts and minds forever.
Lest We Forget.
(Carved on the centerpiece of the memorial to the Kapooka Tragedy at Kapooka. The quotation is based upon Cameron Stewart’s article, ‘Buried Beyond History,’ published in the Australian, 23 April 2008. [i] The funeral was actually two days later, the accident being on Monday and the funeral on Wednesday. The following day, Thursday 24 May, was Empire Day, a major celebratory event in Australia.)
I believe there are two parts to this tragedy: first the explosion and then the silence. The accident killed 26 men, most of them in a single instant. What followed was to have an enduring effect on the families and friends of those who died and who were involved. The omission of the accident and the men’s names from official histories, and the lack of a memorial of any sort until 50 years later, meant those who mourned did so in isolation. This was a burden in itself.
In memory of the men who died in the Kapooka Tragedy
William REID 36 S115574 Sapper
Norman DILLEY 34 N481536 Sapper
Alfred WOODS 32 WX27166 Corporal
Herbert ‘Jack’ POMEROY 31 VX57880 Sergeant
Jack NIXON 30 NX205833 Sapper
Stanley ROSS 28 NX91964 Sapper
Ivan MERRITT 26 SX34069 Sapper
Thomas WOODS 25 N480870 Sapper
Ronald LINTHORNE 25 WX25792 Sergeant
William COUSINS 24 VX141715 Corporal
Colin BOYD 21 NX204475 Sapper
Frank PLATT 20 QX633309 Sapper
Colin HURLEY 20 N481442 Sapper
Leslie MATHER 20 NX180219 Sapper
Alfred WITT 20 WX23101 Sapper
Edward ROBSON 18 NX205938 Sapper
Geoffrey PARTRIDGE 18 NX180218 Sapper
Denby GRASBY 18 SX34059 Sapper
Terence MOORE 18 NX205652 Sapper
Joseph FAULL 18 NX205863 Sapper
Stanley MORPHY 18 Q273563 Sapper
Kevin PIERCE 18 VX96197 Sapper
Joseph COLLINS 18 NX205981 Sapper
Ernest POSCHALK 18 Q273551 Sapper
Kevin HURST 18 NX205951 Sapper
Allan FLOOD 18 NX205969 Sapper