Miles museum touches the heart

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One item caught my eye, among so many from this small jewel of a place. Miles is a country town on Queensland’s Western Downs, and boasts a wonderful historic village museum. The collection is huge, but my attention was inexplicably reserved for the contents of one thin brown wooden frame.

The lapidary collection of cut and polished stones is world class, and the military collection is so staggeringly large for a place this small, it’s poignant. The museum is a must-see for anyone traversing the Warrego Highway. But I could perceive nothing but the frame. In it were three First World War medals and faded ribbons, denoting probable service at Gallipoli. A female relatives badge with two bars. Poor woman, three boys serving overseas. Finally the next of kin death plaque. Dead man’s penny. There are so many here.

Augustus Power was 29 in 1915 when he enlisted in the Wellington Infantry Battalion in Wanganui, New Zealand. That’s 3,000 kilometres from Miles. His mother Rose was still living where he was born in the Hunter region of New South Wales, which is 700 kilometres south of here. Those medals have travelled a long way.

He was killed in action on 8 August 1915 on the first day of the Battle for Chunuk Bair. Mere mention sends chills through generations of New Zealanders. That’s where the only success of the Gallipoli campaign came at such an awful price. The accomplishment was fleeting because the position was untenable. The Ottomans recaptured the peak after a few days and never relinquished it again. Today Augustus is among 850 New Zealanders named on the memorial there, men with no known graves.

Augustus has the rare distinction – particularly for a lowly army private – of being commemorated in three countries. Turkey, New Zealand, and Australia, including here on the Western Downs.

Why I dwelled so long on this frame, I had no idea. Having driven 2,500 kilometres and finding myself at this moment, I was tired and missing my family. It was not until I did get home that I realised. That day this week when I quietly met Private Power, the 100th anniversary of his death had passed. He reminded me. I will never forget.

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