Ninety-four years is a long time to wait for a proper funeral but next Tuesday two Newtown Rugby League footballers who perished in World War I will finally be laid to rest.
In France in the summer of 1916 Australian troops participated in their first major engagement on the Western Front. Having forged a legend in Turkey, they were eager to test themselves.
Included in the ranks of the newcomers keen to live up to Australia's fighting reputation were Herbert "Nutsy" Bolt and Alex Clingan. Bolt, who had played first grade with the Bluebags for four years and represented NSW against Queensland in 1913, was aged 22 and had left behind a wife, Jennie, and baby daughter Monica and now found himself in the 55th Battalion.
Clingan, who was 21, had captained Newtown's Third Grade in 1914 and progressed smoothly to the Blues' second grade team in 1915 before enlisting. An ironworker's assistant with the NSW Tramways he had left school at 13 after his father's death to become the breadwinner for his family.
Fromelles was where the Australian troops had their first involvement on the Western Front and it was nothing short of a disaster. The nation lost more men in a single night than they had during the entire Gallipoli campaign, and Bolt and Clingan were amongst them.
Their bodies were unaccounted for after the battle, but this was nothing unusual in the carnage that was the First World War. For the families and others, however, there remained a lack of closure that gnawed at the soul.
In recent years though, a group of amateur historians and enthusiasts from Australia uncovered in the course of their research that the tolls of missing and those interred did not add up, and that several hundred Australians from the Battle of Fromelles remained to be found.
Their persistence finally led to the uncovering of those bodies in Pheasant Wood, and on the anniversary of the battle next week they will be given a proper burial. Nutsy Bolt and Alex Clingan will be among those buried, as their remains were identified through the DNA of their surviving descendants.
To mark the occasion, the Last Post will be played and there will be a minute's silence before the Newtown Jets' home game against Wentworthville at Henson Park, Saturday, 17 July.
In the early hours of Tuesday (AET) Nutsy Bolt and Alex Clingan will finally be laid to rest. The families of these Newtown Rugby League men will be present in France for the reburial and 12,000 miles away, the club that never forgot them will also pay its respects.
Lest we forget ...
For more information contact the Newtown RLFC historian Terry Williams on 0418 163 026.