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St Mary’s Church and Busselton Memorial Obelisk

St Mary’s Church and Busselton Memorial Obelisk

St Mary’s Anglican Church
43 Peel Terrace
Busselton WA, 2680

St Mary’s Church, Busselton, stands just across the road from a tall obelisk raised in 1920 to carry the names of local people who had died in the Great War. Christopher Armstrong is listed there and also on a highly polished brass memorial plaque in St Mary’s.

Christopher enlisted on 24 May 1915, was wounded at Gallipoli on 6 August 1915, and was evacuated to Alexandria where a bullet lodged close to his spine took his life on 23 August 1915. A brief note sent to his father at Yallingup (near Busselton) in November 1922 informed his family that Christopher had been buried in Egypt at Chatsby Military Cemetery.

The death of their son raised many questions, as it did for thousands of families, about the nature and place of their child’s death but also about the whereabouts of the soldier’s personal possessions. Sometimes families requested a death certificate to conclude arrangements recorded in a soldier’s will. James Armstrong, Christopher’s father, ‘required a death certificate for Letters of Administration’ and wrote to Base Records, Melbourne, two weeks after the Armistice, late in November in 1918 seeking such a document.

Christopher’s plans for his future had included setting up a farm at Margaret River, where he had owned a substantial piece of land.

St Mary’s Anglican Church and the obelisk are both important examples of community heritage. The church is considered to be the oldest stone built church in Western Australia. Its construction was a labour of love and religious devotion by the Bussell family, many of whom are buried in tombs surrounding the church. The churchyard is typically English; Australian graveyards are mostly sited away from churches.

A bronze plaque on the plinth of the obelisk records that it was unveiled in 1920 by ‘General Sir Wm. Birdwood G.C.M.G., K.C.B., C.S.S.I. Etc. on 6th January 1920’. (According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, his postnominals are a little different: KCMG, KCSI, KCB, GCMG.)

Another enduring monument to Christopher is the farm established on land left to his family. The farm was eventually developed and operated by his brother Alfred, usually known as ‘Cedar’, who was seriously wounded on the Western Front but who returned home in 1917.