By Don Bethune
We hear lots of fantastic stories from our tour participants at Boronia Travel, and this month we really wanted to share this wonderful story by one of our recent tour participants, Don Bethune. Don travelled with us to the Western Front
last year, and it was wonderful and extremely impressive to read of his efforts in researching and locating relatives of his fallen soldier at Bullecourt.
Here is Don’s story…
I thought I knew a little about the Western Front however that was quickly dispelled and I still wonder how and why such sacrifice was made. One of the many highlights was meeting Colette Durand at Bullecourt and having that small remembrance service at that little chapel overlooking the fields where diggers bodies still lay. The lighting of a candle to commemorate one of those men was special to me and I made an oath to myself then to try and locate the relatives of that man and let them know.
The candle that I lit was for 3799 Arthur Edward Cordingley of 23rd Bn who was killed on 3rd May 1917. Upon my return to Australia I started the process of finding his relatives. From the National Archives I was able to locate all of his war records, his enlistment documents, etc, and was able to ascertain that he had a wife, Beatrice Cordingley. They had a son, Arthur who had three children, Joan, Bryan and Denis. And that was about as far as I got! I then spoke to a number of Cordingley's who were all very helpful but were not related. I did have to do a lot of explaining why I was calling them. I thought I'd hit the jackpot when I found a Bryan Cordingley in Albury, but again he was not related.
Next was a trip to an Electoral Office where I found other Cordingley's that I hadn't previously been aware of. One of these was a Denis Cordingley who lived on Phillip Island, and bingo, he is the last surviving Grandchild of Arthur Edward Cordingley. We spoke for ages on the telephone and arranged a meeting at his house. We met in late July and spent an afternoon discussing his Grandfather and his service and also the rest of the family. He and his wife had visited Villers Bretonneux in 2016 but he didn't know about Bullecourt. The main reason for this was that his Grandmother was advised of his death in December 1917, many months after his actual death, so the battles of Bullecourt weren't associated with his death by the family. That meeting was something really special, and I felt that I owed Arthur Cordingley that at least. I can't quite describe the relief that I felt driving home after the meeting. It was an odd happy feeling, but that it was finished.
One of the other great things about the tour was the bond that was built up among those attending. I spent two weeks in Perth with the hospitality of Colin Bird and Sue Buckingham from the tour and had a great time.
I didn't know what to expect when I booked for the tour but didn't expect the emotional roller coaster from the various memorials (Menin Gate, Tyne Cot and Thiepval in particular are very moving). I'm glad to see that some of your tours are now including Verdun - that would be another special place.
Thank you for honouring those that remain in France and Belgium and letting us be part of it.