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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