IT has been 100 years since Nhill resident Edward “Bud” Dart participated in the crucial First World War conflict, the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin.
As one of the Wimmera’s most decorated soldiers, he received many medals for his service, including the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. Bud’s service will be recognised at a commemoration in Nhill later this month.
His youngest son Ellis Dart said it was important that stories from the First World War were told.
“It’s 100 years and if we don’t do something about it now, it’s going to be too late, and there will be no one around to remember him,” he said.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 100 years. Nhill has a massive cenotaph and many men went to war to fight.
“There was an enormous amount of people who didn’t come back and others came home who were broken in other ways. You just had to tighten your belt and keep going – nowadays they have a lot more help to deal with the aftermath.”
Bud enlisted in the Australian Army in 1915 with his brother William “Bill” Dart. The pair only met up a few times during the war.
“They went to fight because King and Country was important; I don’t think people today see it the same way,” Ellis said.
“Dad wanted to go and he figured he didn’t have anything to lose. They got to go on a ship to Eygpt and they saw it as an adventure.
“They took another ship to France, and walked to the front line. Then they stood there and blasted each other.
“The amount of cemeteries over there is enormous, and there were a lot of fellows who were blown to pieces so no one remembers who they were.”
During his first year in France, Bud was made a gas-guard and had to be alert to the slightest smell of gas.
On August 31, 1918 Bud and the rest of the 24th battalion crossed the river Somme into enemy territory, starting the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin. It took Australian troops two days to capture the territory.
Bud was in charge of the 2nd Lewis Gun Section. When his platoon commander died during the operation, he assumed command and advanced alone.
In September 1918 he was made corporal and before the end of the war was made a sergeant.
During an attack on Montbrehain on October 5, 1918, he led his section across the flank and was able to overcome enemy fire to capture the post.
Bud returned to Australia in 1919 and was granted a farm through the Repatriation Scheme in 1920. The following year Bud married Kate Pilmore and the couple went on to have five children.
“They cleared the scrub, and during that time, there were rabbits in the hundreds and lots of weeds,” Ellis said.
“They hung on and we still have that property, and we all still live there now – three generations.”
Ellis said the war took a great toll on his father.
“He was wounded with shrapnel in his jugular vein and he carried that for the rest of his life,” he said.
“I suppose he would have been lucky – he just had this instinct to survive. He was a Lewis gunner and must have been reasonably good. Machines guns just tear people to pieces, and the other side was the exactly the same.
“I get a bit emotional thinking about that. There were things that they did during the war that weren’t very good and it was very tough for them.”
Bud died in 1963 at the age of 71 after spending most of his life in poor health, with the effects of gassing during the war being a contributing factor.
“He was a humble man and he loved welcoming people to the home,” Ellis said. “We were pretty ordinary and humble people in those times, in the ’30s and ’40s. He loved the company, I think, because the war brought things out of him.
“He always loved hunting and spent many hours rabbiting, fox shooting and duck shooting. He also always loved his food.
“His real loves were his grandchildren – making memories with them were the kind of things he’d look forward to. As he got older, it was more difficult to do things he loved.”
The 100th anniversary of Edward "Bud" Dart's First World War service will be recognised at the Nhill Cenotaph on Saturday, September 22 from 10.30am. Everyone is welcome to attend.
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