Was Sgt Stratford first ashore?

Col Strafford, the great-nephew of Joseph Stratford, who he believes was the first soldier to have landed on the beach at Gallipoli.
Col Strafford, the great-nephew of Joseph Stratford, who he believes was the first soldier to have landed on the beach at Gallipoli. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

THE heroism of a young Lismore soldier, said by eyewitnesses to have been the first to hit the beach at Gallipoli on April 15, 1915, has yet to be recognised in his home town.

Eyewitness accounts held in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra indicate Sergeant Joseph Stratford may have been the first Australian soldier ashore at Anzac Cove, according to Lismore man Barry Davidson.

Mr Davidson is a long-time friend of Col Stratford, a great-nephew of the fallen Digger.

Mr Stratford is now in his 80s and a resident of Ozanam Villa in Lismore.

Mr Davidson told The Northern Star he had written to the Lismore RSL sub-branch asking that a commemorative plaque be placed at the Lismore Memorial Baths to honour Joseph Stratford.

"Col and his brother Richard, who lives in Victoria, and their 86-year old sister Enid, who lives in Ballina, are wondering whether they will see Sergeant Stratford honoured within their lifetimes," Mr Davidson said.

According to stories from other soldiers who survived the Gallipoli landing, it was thought to have been Sgt Stratford who led the charge up the beach to overcome an enemy machine-gun post with a bayonet fixed to an unloaded rifle.

"Moments later, he himself was killed," Mr Davidson said.

"He was 32 years old.

"His body was never recovered. His mother, Alice Stratford, then living in Conway St, Lismore, spent years seeking information and hoping her son might be found alive."

Former Lismore businessman, musician and musical author Col Stratford told The Northern Star he grew up believing his grandfather's brother had been the first man ashore.

"We talked about it within the family, but people didn't like to talk about the war in public," he said.

The president of the City of Lismore RSL sub-branch, Cec Harris, said there was some doubt about who had been the first man ashore.

"Sgt Stratford was in the 31st Battalion, which was a Queensland battalion," he said.

"So the first one on to the beach could have been a Queenslander.

"If we could prove beyond doubt that he was the first one ashore, there wouldn't be a problem.

Sub-branch honorary secretary Wilson McClelland said the proposal for a plaque would be put before the City of Lismore RSL's Centenary of Anzac committee to be considered among other submissions as a project for Anzac Day 2015.

Topics:  anzac gallipoli soldier war

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