Directly opposite the Carnegie Library in Deakin Avenue, the George Desailly Memorial rotunda was the rallying point for the Mildura community during the Great War. Concerts, recruiting rallies, fundraising events, farewells and welcomes for returning servicemen were regular events.
When word of the Armistice reached Mildura at 9.30 pm on 11 November 1918, the news spread quickly. Three bandsmen from the Mildura District Band immediately commenced playing and were soon joined by other musicians and the townspeople. Revelry continued well into the next day, but the celebrations were bittersweet.
More than 1240 Mildura men had enlisted. They were among the first to die in action in the Great War. At Koorlong, just outside Mildura, the Adams family lost two sons when they landed with the 8th Battalion at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The elder brother, Frederick, was killed that day and his eighteen-year-old sibling Edgar disappeared. In November 1915, a bottle washed up at Alexandria in Egypt containing a message from Edgar, saying he had been taken prisoner. Enquiries failed to locate him and it was eventually concluded that he ‘died in enemy hands on or about 25/4/1915’.
After the Armistice some Australians saw further action with the North Russia Relief Force, including Samuel Pearse, a young neighbour of the Adams family. Daring by nature, at the age of eleven Samuel had saved a girl from a bolting horse. He enlisted before his eighteenth birthday, serving briefly at Gallipoli before going to the Western Front with the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Company. In September 1917 at Glencourse Woods near Ypres, he singlehandedly bombed an enemy post with ‘utter disregard’ for his own safety and was awarded the Military Medal.
After his discharge from the AIF in 1919, he married and enlisted as a Sergeant with the 45th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. On 29 August 1919, while under heavy machine-gun fire at Emptsa, near Archangel in North Russia, he cut through barbed-wire defences to attack a blockhouse with hand grenades, killing the occupants before being shot by a Russian machine gun. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Samuel’s widow and daughter settled in Australia in 1920, and in 1922 the Carnegie Library, with the addition of a memorial clock tower and a roll of honour, became a place of reverence. A framed photograph of Sergeant Samuel Pearse took pride of place in the library.
‘How the News was received in Mildura’, Mildura Cultivator, 13 November 1918: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/74810957
‘Sunraysia lost many in World War I’, Sunrasysia Daily (Supplement), October 1999:
Service Record for Private Edgar Robert Colbeck Adams, No. 1127: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=3020052
Service Record for Private Frederick James Adams, No. 868: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=3020287
Lone Pine Cemetery: http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/2visiting/graves/g_lonepine.html
Honours and Awards – Samuel Pearse: http://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1068365--37-.PDF
Red Cross Wounded and Missing – Samuel George Pearse: http://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1056113--1-.PDF
Australian Dictionary of Biography: Pearse, Samuel George (1897–1919): http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pearse-samuel-george-8001
‘Sergeant SG Pearse, VC: Memorial Photo Unveiled’, Mildura Cultivator, 13 March 1920: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/75390759
‘Still Making History at 100’: http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/07/16/2305586.htm
Mildura Historical Society
74 Deakin Avenue
Mildura VIC 3500
PO Box 2957
Mildura VIC 3500