Missing Honour Boards Project

World War I Honour Boards are still being discovered out in the community but the attention and efforts of the Geelong Honours Them Project Team are currently focused on a list of over sixty Honour Boards that may now be lost to the annals of time.

A painstaking effort to reconstruct the details of these Honour Boards and the names they contained is well underway as Heritage Centre staff members scour century-old records for any clues.

The Geelong Honours Them website now includes 200 Honour Boards dedicated to servicewomen and men in the Geelong region. The 200th addition is a photograph and description of the Melbourne Electric Supply Co. (Geelong Branch) Roll of Honour, although the whereabouts of the original Honour Board are currently unknown.

 

Image: Melbourne Electric Supply Co. (Geelong Branch) Roll of Honour

 

The Missing Honour Boards Project had its beginnings with the addition of the Geelong Hospital Members of Staff Honor Roll. The Geelong Family History Group’s early efforts to identify all of the region’s Honour Boards had uncovered newspaper articles about its existence and included a list of names.

Several other Honour Boards were identified in the Geelong Advertiser reports of the late 1910s and early 1920s, along with some contemporary photographs published in the Geelong & Western District’s News of the Week.

The Geelong Family History Group, following the trails of Honour Boards in the early 2000s, didn’t have the luxury of being able to search digitised newspapers through the National Library of Australia’s TROVE resource. The simple search ‘honor roll unveiled’ has revealed dozens more presumed missing Honour Boards.

One of the Honour Boards reported as unveiled in 1923 was that of the Geelong Branch of the Melbourne Electric Supply Company. The company was later acquired by the State Electricity Commission along with responsibility for the Geelong Tramways.

The roll was described as ‘unique in character and design…(including) photographs of the men with their names shown in beaten bronze attached under the photos. The photos of the three men who are killed are encircled in olive branches. The two outer sections of the roll have a canopy effect, and this is capped with bronze’.

 

Image: Geelong Advertiser article, 2 July 1923

 

This description sounded very familiar to staff at the Geelong Heritage Centre. The State Electricity Commission’s Geelong Branch social club had a very active photography focus and the resulting collection of glass negatives contains fascinating photographs documenting the construction of the Geelong Tramways as well as other streetscapes showing works and images taken around the Power Station site.

The negatives were scanned and rehoused by the Geelong Heritage Centre in 2008 but the full catalogue was not produced until volunteers were recently asked to describe the collection consisting of over 400 images. A quick search of the catalogue led to the re-discovery of the dramatic 1930s photograph. The details described in the news article were unmistakable.

Some close-up details are reproduced below:

 

Image: Corporal David Beard, a returned serviceman whose portrait is included on the 200th Honour Board, with rank and name in beaten bronze affixed below

 

Image: Private RM Wilson, one of the three fallen soldiers encircled with carved olive branches

 

Image: The bronze capping is evident in this detail view

 

The Geelong Honours Them Project Team members continue to research the dozens of missing Honour Boards now identified. It is almost impossible to definitively conclude that any given board is lost, but there are a number of clues which can lead to that assumption.

The Puebla Parish Honor Roll’s last know location was the Torquay Public Hall which burnt down in the devastating 1940 bushfire as it took the town by surprise. Other important local records stored in the building were lost that day and it is unlikely that the board would have been saved from the flames.

A number of Honour Boards appear to have become lost or displaced when the buildings which housed them for decades were demolished. The Central College Honor Roll may have been lost shortly after it was unveiled – the Skene Street school closed in 1923 and its home, Knowle House, passed through private hands until its demolition in the 1960s.

Research is currently being conducted on Honour Boards dedicated to former students at Corio State School, Flinders State School and Gordon College, members of the Barwon Quoit Club, Hibernian Club and Herne Hill Methodist Church and Sunday School, as well as other schools, churches, clubs, industries, organisations and communities.

If any of these currently missing Honour Boards are still out there they would have quite interesting tales to tell.