The cenotaph in Station Place, Werribee stands in tribute to those who gave their lives to protect our nation.
Among the names on the cenotaph, there are several with the same surname, including three listings with the last name “Swanton”.
The story of the Swanton brothers, sons of Werribee residents Samuel and Helena Swanton, is one of patriotism, bravery and – sadly – tragedy. All three of the siblings died in service during World War I.
The eldest brother George Beamish enlisted in Werribee on March 2, 1915.
Only two years earlier, he had married his wife Nellie, and the pair had a baby daughter named Joan Helen.
At the age of 33, George underwent training at the Broadmeadows Camp before his battalion joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli. The MEF spent 16 weeks at Lone Pine, then travelled to Egypt.
While his unit was guarding the Suez Canal Zone in 1916, George was promoted to Acting Corporal.
His unit sailed for France in March, and he was later promoted to Corporal. George died in action at Pozieres on July 28, 1916.
The middle Swanton boy, John, was aged 26 when he took part in the Anzac landings at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. He died on May 2.
At his memorial service held in June 1915, which was held at St Thomas’ Church in Werribee, Reverend Laceby Cecil described John as “a man in the best sense of the word” who lead a “… life of cheerfulness and usefulness”.
The youngest Swanton brother, Henry, was a carpenter. He enlisted in Melbourne in January 1916. He died during the Battle of the Somme, at Flers on November 2, 1916.
Apart from George, John and Henry, the Swanton family had one other brother, William, and four sisters.
William’s son, George William Swanton, is now aged in his eighties and lives in Wyndham Vale.
Mr Swanton said that when he was younger, his father told him that the four Swanton brothers drew straws to see who would enlist for the war, as the government recommended that one son in each family should remain at home.
“He (my father) said his brothers were brave,” Mr Swanton said.
“He also told me John was a shearer, in NSW, and that George Beamish was a pretty active man in sport.
“He was a bike rider, and he rode on the tracks and the old Richmond track.”
Mr Swanton said the names of his three uncles were listed on an honour board at Werribee Primary School.
Mr Swanton said he had been attending Anzac Day services since the age of three years old.
“Anzac Day means a great deal to me,” he said.
The Werribee Anzac Day Dawn Service will be held at the Station Place cenotaph between 6.30-7am on Wednesday, April 25.
Following the service, breakfast will be served at the Kelly Park Community Centre.
The information in this story came from wyndhamhistory.net.au, the Australian War Memorial website and the National Library of Australia archives, plus an interview with George William Swanton.