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Corner of Church St and Market St Wollongong 8am, 9:30am, 11am, 5pm & 7pm each Sunday
This Sunday 11 November marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of armistice that led to the end of the First World War. An honour roll of 55 men who died during the war, with links to St Michael’s, is located on the northern wall of the church building.
The roll includes first day enlistments, those killed at the Gallipoli landing and during the subsequent campaign, men killed during most of the large battles on the Western Front, and some who died of accidents and disease.
Most of these men had Bibles amongst their possessions returned to their grieving families after their deaths. Lieutenant Syd Duchesne, whose name is recorded on the honour roll, and whose niece still attends St Michael’s today, was killed on the first day at Gallipoli. Here is an extract from his last known letter home to his family:
‘Tell them Dad that for them and our country, we who are from Australia are ready to give up that which is most precious to all – that is our life, that if by doing so we help to keep you all safe and free. And tell Mother and Aunt Ada, that I wish them to remember the text of one of Canon Vaughan’s sermons: “Weep not for the Dead but for the Living” Because if by chance my time has come to leave this world, I wish not for a better death than on the battlefield helping Englishmen keep our Empire in freedom.’
During the war years, St Michael’s church bell rang each day at noon, with the aim that people would come to the church and pray for those serving and for “the speedy termination of the war”. Extra services were held during each week for intercession.
The entry in the church register for Monday 11th November 1918 shows the central place the church held within Wollongong. The entry states:
At 855 pm Thanksgiving Service for victory over the Central Powers, Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria and Germany, which was completed by the signing of the Armistice at 11am on the 11th Day of November 1918. The official news of the signing of the Armistice was conveyed to the people of Wollongong by the ringing of St Michael’s Church bell, which it was arranged should be the means of communicating the news when official. The people according to arrangement as notified by the rector, met immediately in the Church for a Thanksgiving service to Almighty God in grateful acknowledgment of His gift of victory. The church was thronged with people of all Denominations and a Solemn and Happy service was held. The rector read the official news and addressed the gathering, finally asking all present as an act of thanksgiving most acceptable to God to join him in consecrating their lives to God, to henceforth live after His laws under the leadership of Jesus Christ His Son. The whole congregation following the rector knelt in silent prayer in the act of consecration.
Charles Stubbin, who was rector of St Michael’s at the time, had a son serving overseas.
How great would it be to see people thronging to St Michael’s every Sunday for thanksgiving and praise of our great God. Let us hope this happens again, and pray that it does not take a war to cause it.
Dr Ian Swainson