central station honour boards

Of the 8,477 railwaymen who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces and served in Expeditionary Forces in World War I, 1,214 lost their lives through that service. The NSW Government Railways and Tramways sought to immortalise them on a series of honour boards on the concourse at Central Station. Each of their individual stories can be found below.

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The Honour Boards project

During their 55 years in storage, the honour roll boards were unfortunately damaged through water ingress, mould and the depredation of insects, with some names obscured and an entire paper roll missing. When it was decided to refurbish these boards for public display, the decision was taken to remove and conserve what remained of the paper lists and the hand-painted glass and replace with replicas. In this way we are protecting the precious, original (although damaged) fabric while still honouring the sacrifice of these men in the way the NSW Government Railways and Tramways originally wished. The timber cabinets were carefully refurbished to their original lustre.

Replacing the paper lists was not straightforward. Several lists of the fallen were collated over the years, beginning with the New South Wales Railway & Tramway Budget, the in-house magazine of the NSW Government Railways and Tramways, who published the first list, containing 10 names, in July 1915. The organisation’s annual reports started to include the war dead, and in 1924 a book of names was prepared

that was known as the honour roll (separate from the physical honour boards that were on display at Central). The honour boards themselves were also updated from time to time, and it seems that the final update was probably in 1924, following the honour roll completion.

However, the lists do not align. There are numerous examples of mis-spellings between the roll, the boards, enlistment papers and railway records. Sometimes this was because the men themselves were not particular about how their names were spelled, sometimes it was because they had given false information on their enlistment paperwork so they could sign up, and sometimes it seems to have been simple error on the part of the compilers.

In the interests of authenticity, it was decided to replicate the names exactly as written on the honour boards, even if we believed the spelling was incorrect. It was also decided to retain the names of the men we didn’t believe should have

been included, such as Flynn and Murray who were duplicated entries; J.S. Armstrong who was not a NSWGR&T employee, but was confused with an employee of similar name who served and returned safely to Australia; and Olsen and Prior, who are not believed to have been casualties of the war.

We did, however, choose to fill some of the leftover blank spaces on the final board with the names of four men whose names should have been added but never had been, in an effort to belatedly recognise their sacrifice. These were Pearce (actually Pearse) who died in Sydney from tuberculosis he contracted while on active service; and Wasson, Keleher and Manns who were included in the 1924 update.

The boards were re-instated exactly where they were in 1916 at a special ceremony on 8 November 2018 by Transport Heritage NSW and Sydney Trains.

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