It was a moving personal experience…

Reflections from a volunteer contributor to the Geelong Honours Them WWI Honour Boards Project

During 2020, I worked as part of a team with the task of transcribing names from the digital images of World War I Honour Boards for the Geelong Honours Them project.

The process involved studying hundreds of digital photographs taken of the Honour Boards and typing the names inscribed on each one into a spreadsheet. Additional descriptive information was also recorded in preparation for each set of names to be uploaded along with the digital image to the Geelong Honours Them website.

At times this could be really challenging. For instance some lettering might be faded or otherwise not clearly defined if the board had deteriorated due to its age or suffered damage at some point in time.

For all the staff and volunteers involved in this project, we felt it very important to get the names and other information each board has recorded as accurate as possible as the women and men listed on these Honour Boards were not just names, they were people who had sacrificed so much, sometimes everything. The very least we could do was to make sure that their names would live on.

An additional transcription task we tackled involved a different type of World War I Honour Board. These are the amazing and beautiful photo montage boards with mounted portraits and ornately painted lettering.

This was quite a confronting experience.

The more common type of Honour Boards are the ones that contain lists of names, usually initials and a surname – names of people I didn’t know and couldn’t put a face to. I felt somewhat removed from the process.

The photo montages were however very different. These contain photographs of young women and men all dressed in their uniforms, looking like they are ready to embark on an adventure but in reality it would be something that would change them forever.

Looking at these images, typing their names and adding ‘killed in action’ was personally a very saddening experience. There were so many like this that I had to start focusing on those that made it home – those lucky enough to read bedtime stories to their grandchildren, or get together with mates on Anzac Day and remember the fallen.

I feel it an honour to have been able to make a personal contribution to the Geelong Honours Them project and create a long lasting legacy. I’m certain that generations to come, who can access and view these beautiful memorials and the names of women and men, recognised and recorded by their local communities, will be forever grateful for what they can now discover.

 (Name withheld at the contributor’s request)