Preserving our history for all to share

St Vedast Church, Reningelst and military cemetery next to the churchyard.
St Vedast Church, Reningelst and military cemetery next to the churchyard.

THE more you study or research local history the more you realise how important it is to preserve our precious heritage.

With the Centenary of the start of the First World War coming up next year, plus the Centenary of the 1915 Anzac Landing, many people are discovering that they had some relative or family friend who enlisted in this terrible conflict and then they realise just how little they know about these long forgotten people.

Where do they go? Much of the official information is available in the National Library or War Memorial records but there is very little, if any, in our local history resources.

Some family historian may have found pieces of information, and perhaps there is a general file which can be searched at a local historical or family history society.

However, these groups are run by volunteers with very little, if any, financial assistance from government sources, and so their research is limited.

They are very dependent on material donated by families and other organizations and, if a family does not know of a long lost relation, there is probably nothing in society files!

Why has this happened?

The national and state governments have provided excellent research libraries and dedicated professionals there have collected material for many years.

As well, there have been private collectors and these have often donated their material to the state institutions - hence we have the Mitchell Library of Australiana based on David Scott Mitchell's collection.

But, local areas overseas have wonderful archives dating back centuries. White settlement in Australia is only 200 years old but we have very few local sources.

Our Aboriginal history goes back thousands of years, and we have very little of that either!

The simple answer is that local government authorities usually do not care about such things - they are too interested in filling in potholes and attending to other more basic needs.

Very few councillors are interested in the arts, libraries, or history, and yet these are the very things which would bring tourists and researchers to the area.

Some years ago one councillor stated that he did not approve of libraries as "reading is a dying art". In more recent times local history, at least regarding our library, has begun to repeat itself!

William Allen Collins of Yamba enlisted in the First World War in 1915 and died of wounds in November 1917.

He was the son of Thomas and Caroline Collins and had been born in 1886. He was attached to a field artillery unit and was part of the 2nd Division Ammunition Column.

His work was highly dangerous as it involved delivering ammunition to the artillery units which were in forward positions.

Usually this meant being part of a horse or mule train and they were under continuous enemy shelling. He is buried at the Reninghelst New Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Reningelst (previously Reninghelst) is a small rural village in Flanders Province and, as well as having a War Cemetery, has a local history going back to at least 1100 years when a castle was built there. An historic Catholic church (St Vedastuskerk) was built about 1300.

Though the village has a population of less than 2000 people it is very conscious of its history and encourages tourists to visit and share the resources.

As well, an annual music and poetry festival is held there. Perhaps we could take note of what has been done at this resting-place of one of our soldiers!

Topics:  history

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