Diggers depart 100 years on


Today marks the 100th anniversary of Western Australia’s first Diggers departing Fremantle docks for World War I.

Men, women and children took part in an array of remembrance events including a street parade, commemorative rail arrival and ceremony from the docks.

HMAS Perth Maritime Logistics Officer Sean Noble said the selfless acts of the Diggers helped form the Australia of today.

“ANZAC for me means the start of what we now know as the Aussie spirit, how we actually live our life,” he said.

Kelmscott-Pinjarra Memorial Troop

Kelmscott-Pinjarra Memorial Troop


John Donnan served in the Australian Navy between 1962 to 1975.

“I was in the Navy; I started off in Korea, I was in Malaya, in Borneo and I was in Vietnam, so I’ve got quite a bit of experience in the war side of things,” he said.

Today marks a special milestone for the ex-Naval officer.

“It means a great lot to me because my grandfather went away in World War I, and my father was in World War Two,” he said.

“My grandfather left from Fremantle in 1914, he was one of the first. Just like my father, he left from Fremantle, and he was one of the first.”

Fortunately, both survived their tenures in the war.

War veteran John Doonan

War veteran John Doonan

“They were both in the army, they both went away and they both came back,” he said.

Speaking very fondly of his father, Mr Donnan said the unpredictability of war was apparent.

“His number was WX7313,” he said.

“I never saw him for six years, he left in ‘39 and didn’t come back till ‘45.

“He was on his way home after being over in Greece and Crete and Palestine, but they turned the ship sharply to the left and went to New Guinea.”

He shared an amazing story of survival with InkWire.

“I was on the HMAS Voyager that got sunk in 1964,” he said.

“It got cut in half by the [HMAS] Melbourne and 87 of ours got killed on that night out at Jervis Bay.

“The Melbourne aircraft carrier literally cut us in half.”


The spirit of the ANZAC is more than simply the Diggers themselves.

The Australian Red Cross was established shortly after the outbreak of war as a branch of the British service.

Current members of the service were out in force today to pay their respects to the medical staff of the First World War.

Norma Browning, Dorothy Taylor, Anne Byers, Rosalia Mollica

Norma Browning, Dorothy Taylor, Anne Byers, Rosalia Mollica

Norma Browning has been a member of the Fremantle Red Cross for the past 20 years and is deeply connected to the events that unfolded.

“My aunty was a nurse in the First World War,” she said.

“There’s a place in Cottesloe called Wanslea, which was a hospital for the soldiers when they came back, and she looked after the soldiers.

“In fact she was even engaged to a soldier in the war, but they didn’t get married … he didn’t get killed but they didn’t get married.”

Fellow Red Cross member Dorothy Taylor marches every ANZAC Day and said these commemorations were important to uphold.

“I don’t care how hot it is, I march on ANZAC Day,” she said.

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Today commemorates the departure of more than 41,000 men and women from the port cities of Fremantle and Albany to join Australia’s World War I effort.

The HMAT Ascanius and HMAT Medic set sail from Fremantle and into the battlefields.

Although Albany was the main departure point, the two transport ships were on site to collect the state’s first forces from Fremantle.

The 11th Battalion of Western Australia – featured in the famed image seated on top of an Egyptian pyramid – sailed aboard the HMAT Ascanius.

Thirty-eight per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 44 enlisted across the nation with many giving their lives for the cause.

Commemorative events will continue tomorrow in Albany with a troop march and remembrance service.

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1 reply »

  1. I’m proud and I very much enjoyed reading your research, interviews and pictures re WW1. Samuel, did you know you have three G/G uncles and three G/G/G Uncles who fought in WW1? G/G/G Uncle Leslie Norman WARD embarked Adelaide 22 October 1914 on the Port Lincoln which called into Albany to collect troops from Western Australia which of course sailed 100 years ago! The Hon Ebenezer WARD was very proud of his 3 sons and 3 grandsons! Two grandsons are from Western Australia,the other grandson and three sons lived in Adelaide. The other five sailed to battle between the years of 1914-1917. I have their pictures that tell the story! All these six brave men came back alive.Ma.
    Congratulations once again to you both.

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