Extensive detail on the history of more than 1500 Subiaco soldiers who served in the First World War (WWI) is being uncovered in a research study carried out at The University of Western Australia. UWA PhD student Claire Greer last year completed a detailed analysis of Olive Street in Subiaco as a pilot study.
She has since extended the research to cover the whole of Subiaco in her Landscape of Loss project.
Ms Greer collected data from original military records and a range of historical sources to put together intricate details mapping out the lives of Subiaco residents and soldiers who served in WWI.
Ms Greer said Australians had a high level of attachment to WWI and ANZAC Day in particular, and the interest had inspired her to start the study. “More than one hundred years later Anzac Day still holds a lot of emotion and I’ve always been interested to know what underpins that,” she said.
Ms Greer said that with more than 32,000 soldiers from Western Australia serving in WWI from a total population of 306,000, there was still much history to uncover.
Up to one in five would not return, and the preliminary picture was already clearly showing the effect of so much loss in the Subiaco area.
“For example, Subiaco lost at least 56 men in only eight weeks as the battles of Fromelles, Pozieres and Mouquet Farm raged between July and September 1916,” she said.
“We already know these were terrible events for the nation as a whole, but when you look at the history of war too broadly, you can lose important context that shows the impact on local communities.
“Each of the Subiaco men who died had connections across the suburb, to friends, family members, colleagues and school mates - every household in the area was affected as a result.
“I’ve also uncovered stories of those who remained on the home front during the conflict. “Several local families of German descent changed their surnames as a response to community tension as fighting on the Western Front intensified, including one that even changed an old family gravestone to reflect their new name.”
Anyone who had an ancestor living in the Subiaco area during WWI era is encouraged to contact Ms Greer with any information they may have.
“I’m particularly keen to find letters, diaries or photographs that might be able to give new insight into life in Subiaco during those years,” Ms Greer said.
Ms Greer will travel to Belgium and France later this year to visit the battlefields and grave sites of Subiaco soldiers to expand her research.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716
Claire Greer (UWA School of Humanities) (+61 4) 01 227 011