On Remembrance Day 2004, a new format was adopted for the annual celebration of this event, jointly organised and sponsored by the Historical Society and the Mt Wilson Progress Association.
Following the traditional service of Remembrance at the War Memorial conducted by the Reverend Ian Meares of Blackheath and the playing of the Last Post by a gifted young musician, everyone walked to the Village Hall where Robert Chesney and Arthur Delbridge spoke about the contribution of two of the soldiers from World War I whose names appear on the War Memorial: Vivian Clarence Lancelot Kirk and Percy Pedder Scrivener.
Few present would have known the background of these two persons who belonged to our communities so long ago. It was especially gratifying to have Margaret Scrivener, Pedder Scrivener's daughter-in-law, and Milba Mewburn, representing the Kirk family, present. It is intended that this pattern be followed at future gatherings for Remembrance Day and, where possible, the contribution of each person named on the Memorial be recorded in a special book to be kept in the Village Hall.
Introduction by Arthur Delbridge
The service we have just come from at the Soldier's memorial is one of thousands like it held today around Australia. The one thing that's special to us in our service is that we are remembering people of our own community.
Their names are there on the granite face in front of us. So who really were they, those men and women from the families of Mt Wilson, Mt Irvine and Bell who served in World War I, World War II and Vietnam? What did it mean to them and their families that they enlisted for three or four or five years of their lives, went away to distant lands, learnt to cope with the rigours and disciplines of service life, most of them in deadly conflict with the enemy? Their names are like a roll call of the early settlers in our communities: Gregson, Mann, Morley, Scrivener, Kirk, Valder, Gunn, Wynne, Knight-Brown. Three of them have a star against their names on the stone. They made the supreme sacrifice, they did not come back, and as we say in the Hymn: ‘We will remember them', And indeed, we remember them all, the starred and the un-starred on our memorial. Those who came back were indeed glad to be back. But I think it may safely be said that for better or for worse, no-one can escape from the influence or the memory of years spent in service with the armed forces of Australia.
At the end of last year's service Kevin Gunn came away from the stone saying 'I guess I'm just about the only one still alive'. That made me think: I know him but what about all the others? Shouldn't we know a bit more.
So now I’ll read a short citation of the wartime life of two of them. These are based on official war records, and what we have been told kindly by family members. Taking two or three names each year we could make a full account, and perhaps record them eventually in a Memorial Book - hand written by a calligrapher - perhaps to be kept here in our Hall for all to see.
Percy Pedder Scrivener
Pedder Scrivener was the son of Charles Robert Scrivener of Tahoa, Mt Irvine. Born in 1890, he enlisted for service in WWI in April 1915, aged twenty-five. At the time of enlisting he was an accountant in the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. He was single. Like all recruits he had first to be approved as fit for service. In one of the standard questions he was asked: ‘Have you ever been convicted by the Civil Power?’ He answered yes, rather defiantly, and gave the details: ‘At Cootamundra NSW, in 1906, fined 2/6d for riding a bicycle without a light on a moonlight night'. The army didn't actually hold this against him and his enlistment was approved. Within a very short time he embarked for France where he served in the First Field Artillery Brigade until the end of the war.
Clearly he was a very good soldier and fairly quickly became a commissioned officer. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross 'for gallantry and devotion to duty'. This was for his bravery in two critical days of fighting, when he was in his forward observation post under heavy enemy fire. His job was to direct fire from the battery's guns, probably some hundreds of yards behind him, in support of an infantry advance. During this engagement his telephone lines to the battery became the only line of communication still working for the whole ‘stunt’, to use his word for it.
When his telephone broke down, he repaired it, though still under fire. His gallant actions turned the whole operation - infantry, artillery and all - into a successful military achievement.
We're greatly indebted to his daughter- in-law Margaret Scrivener, who is here with us today, for access to the diary Pedder Scrivener kept with daily accounts of his war service in France.
They give us a vivid account of the truly awful conditions under which intense military action was maintained.
January 28th 1917: The dugouts and gun pits are very crude. My dugout had fallen in but repairs are difficult with everything frozen and snow still on the ground. Everywhere tins of bully beef are frozen and even bread glistens all through with ice. We are shooting at almost extreme ranges.
January 29th : Fired 156 rounds tonight between 10pm and 5am.
January 30th : The remainder of the battery came up and took over tonight. Been snowing today; the roads are like glass and horses must go warily. I think ice must be feet and not inches deep. Everything has been freezing for weeks.
May 2nd 1918: A couple of days or so ago the 1st Battery had a bad day. Major Randall was wounded and Major Stewart killed. Shortly afterwards Short was killed, Coleman serious wounded and died the same night, and Captain Shepherd wounded.
By February 1919, the war being over and transport being available, Pedder Scrivener was sent to London and in March embarked on the journey back to Sydney. As for his civilian life after the war was over, the National Archives Australia show that from 1947 to 1955 Pedder was Clerk of the Shire of Blue Mountains and as at March 1972 be owned and ran a plant nursery in Springwood. He died on 23rd May 1974.
Vivian Clarence Lancelot Kirk
Of the seven Kirk brothers of Mt Wilson, Sid, Bert and Viv served in WWI and Tom in WWII. Today I'll give some details of Viv Kirk's war service. He enlisted in Lithgow in February 1916, not yet turned 20 so it had to be with the consent of his parents. He went to Bathurst for training for a short two months only before being posted as a reinforcement to the 53rd Battalion within the 5th Division. In April 1916 he embarked in Sydney on the SS Ceramic and joined his battalion in France at the end of August. He went into the battle of Fromelles.
In this one engagement all the senior officers of his battalion were killed or wounded. Viv later told his family that he was the only one to survive out of his platoon of 30 men. The casualty rate in the Division was so high (more than 5000 killed and wounded in this battle) that the Division was out of defensive action for many months. But in March 1917 it was back in the battle of Bullecourt on the Somme. In this battle, Viv served also as a stretcher bearer. At this time he contracted severe trench fever and was admitted to a field hospital but as his condition deteriorated he was sent off to a military hospital in England.
Then back to France and into the battle of Amiens. In this engagement he was a sniper, but he himself was wounded by a bullet from an enemy sniper. As a result he spent four months in hospital. The surgeon's report reads: “Extensive injury to median nerve fibres causing paralysis of index and middle fingers of the left hand - the bullet passing through arm, entered the chest and is still there'' (Dr H G Marsh, Captain).
Family records showed that the officer who wanted to recommend Viv for an award for bravery was killed in action before he could do it. Viv had rescued a wounded soldier out on the enemy wire and carried him back to safety in the face of enemy gunfire, saving his life. When the war was over, Viv returned to Australia in May 1919 and was discharged in September of that year, almost 4 years after enlisting.
Back in Mt Wilson, in spite of his war wounds, Viv took up again the occupations of his earlier life as timbergetter, firefighter, horseman and landowner; all the things that the Kirk men did so famously for so long.
He married Olga Mahoney and they had, as Lesley Wynne tells us in her memoirs, “four beautiful daughters”. He died here in Mt Wilson with his bullet still in his chest, too close to his heart to have ever been removed.