Local hero showed "amazing courage" before being killed
A MEMORIAL service in Alstonville on Saturday commemorated the life of a local hero who showed "amazing courage" just before he was killed in the First World War, aged 20.
The occasion marked the centenary of the action for which World War I Digger, Private Paddy Bugden, was posthumously awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.
It also remembered all the young men from the area who gave their life in the war.
Pte Bugden - born in Tatham near Casino - served with the 31st Battalion in 1917 near Ypres, Belgium, after enlisting in the army from Alstonville, where his stepfather and mother owned the Federal Hotel.
During the battle of Polygon Wood, from September 26-28, Pte Bugden on two occasions led small parties in attacks on enemy machine gun positions.
On five occasions he rescued wounded men trapped by enemy fire.
He also single-handedly went to the aid of an Australian soldier who had been captured by the enemy.
He was aged 20 when he was killed by shrapnel in action on September 28 and was buried at Hooge Crater cemetery at Zillebeke in Belgium.
Pte Bugden was recommended for the Victoria Cross later on October 12 and the honour was formally gazetted on November 23.
Alstonville RSL Sub-Branch president Mark Quilligan said Paddy Bugden showed "amazing courage".
"He probably could have been awarded the Victoria Cross at least five times," Mr Quilligan said.
Mr Quilligan said the local community was heavily impacted by the First World War, with the Bugden family having had four young cousins going off to war.
Tragically, only one returned home.
"Initially we had grief about the death of Paddy, but that has now changed to a celebration of the life of one immensely brave young fellow," Mr Quilligan said.
"And he is representative of all the brave young fellows who served."
About 70 descendants of Paddy Bugden attended the Paddy Bugden Memorial at Bugden Ave, with Doug and Kay Baird, the parents of recent Victoria Cross recipient, the late Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG.
Pat Bugden of Alstonville attended the day because his great-grandfather was the brother of Pte Bugden's father.
"When we were young we didn't talk too much about it, it's probably only in the last 20 years I've learned of Pte Bugden's history," Mr Bugden said.
"It's extremely special to have Paddy recognised."
Brisbane 31st Battalion Association President Ray Fogg said the diggers were impressed by the community turn out and that that they felt "much better supported" in country areas like Alstonville.
"These traditions are very important for the young people so they understand them and know about them," he said.
Members of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment provided the catafalque party, supported by soldiers of the 41st Battalion, the Royal NSW Regimentm as a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster conducted a fly-past at 11.30am.
The memorial was consecrated in 1997, adjacent to the original memorial unveiled in 1948, and was a project of the Rotary Club of Alstonville.