The West

Students pay homage to forgotten young soliders
Perth Modern School performing at the La Flamme Ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. Picture: Graham Hall

They lie in small cemeteries not far from each other in a part of France that had some of the fiercest battles of World War I.

And ever since young West Australians Arthur Bacon and Frank Williamson were laid to rest, there has been little to no public recognition of their service and sacrifice.

Until now. Tomorrow, 149 students from their school, Perth Modern, along with escorting teachers, will visit the two cemeteries to honour the soldiers and correct an oversight that led to their names being left off the memorial built in the school's grounds in 1921.

The pair were among 27 killed out of the 177 former students and five teachers who had enlisted.

The oversight was discovered by music teacher and keen amateur historian Neil Coy as he researched the school's music tour of central Europe, France and Belgium.

Bacon was studying electrical engineering at the new University of WA when he enlisted.

In June 1915 he was on his way to Gallipoli with the 16th Battalion at the tender age of 18.

He was shot in the face, the bullet tearing into his upper lip and out through his left cheek.

After a long stay in hospital, Bacon was back with the battalion on the Western Front where he was again wounded, this time an eye was damaged. He was wounded a third time at Ypres, Belgium, when a shrapnel burst hit a leg.

After recovering again, Bacon fought on in France until the battalion's involvement at Bellenglise on September 18, 1918, after which the 16th was granted a rest.

But respite for the battalion came too late for Bacon, who was killed that day.

It would have been his last day of combat, because the battalion was still out of the line when the war ended in November. Bacon's grave is at Jeancourt Communal Cemetery.

Mr Coy found that Williamson had signed his enlistment papers in October 1915 at age 16 claiming to be 18, with a note from his parents supporting his claim.

He arrived in France in June 1916 with the 51st Battalion and was killed on September 3, 1916, during the battle of Mouquet Farm. He is buried at Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt.

"It's compelling to see the sense of community between past and present," Mr Coy said. "Our students have come to feel passionate about being the group that will correct an oversight of 93 years standing."

The West Australian

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