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WWI veteran Allan Bennison Black’s service recognised at Old Harvey Cemetery

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
World War I veteran Allan Black has been honoured with a Commonwealth War Grave at Old Harvey Cemetery.
Camera IconWorld War I veteran Allan Black has been honoured with a Commonwealth War Grave at Old Harvey Cemetery. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

A late World War I veteran buried in Harvey has been given the recognition and honour deserving of his service to Australia.

A commemoration was held at Old Harvey Cemetery on Saturday to mark the life of the late Lieutenant Allan Bennison Black DCM after he was given a Commonwealth War Grave.

More than two dozen people attended the service, which included a guard of honour from the Westralian Great War Living History Association, speeches by relatives and Harvey RSL members and a wreath laying ceremony.

Mr Black was born in Victoria in 1886 and moved with his parents to Cowcowing in the Wheatbelt when he was 14.

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He helped his father with farming before enlisting in the Australian Defence Force in August 1914, only a month after the start of World War I.

He left Fremantle in early November that year, arriving in Egypt for training at the end of the month. Mr Black was originally part of the Anzac landing force before illness forced him to return to Egypt.

Once he recovered, Mr Black was sent to France where in 1916 he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal after he was seriously injured in an attack.

Allan Bennison Black in 1914.
Camera IconAllan Bennison Black in 1914. Credit: The Collection of Hu English

He spent nearly a year in rehabilitation before he returned to France in November 1917, where he remained for four months before returning to the UK for the rest of the war.

After being discharged from the Army in late 1920, Mr Black moved to Harvey, where he returned to farming. However, the injuries he received during his service hindered him for the rest of his life.

Mr Black died in 1949 aged 63 and was buried in the Old Harvey Cemetery in an unmarked grave, having returned to the town from Cottesloe to live with his sister.

Although neither Mr Black or his two sisters had children, distant relatives last year applied for a Commonwealth War Grave for the late veteran, which was successful in January after a six-month process.

Service attendee Kevin Briggs noted his late wife’s role in getting the process to recognise Mr Black started.

“Di (Briggs) was a dedicated family historian and uncovered a lot of information about Allan, which was continued by Nanette de Mestre and Shirley O’Donovan,” he said.

Members of the Westralian Great War Living History Association conduct the guard of honour at the commemoration of Allan Black at Old Harvey Cemetery.
Camera IconMembers of the Westralian Great War Living History Association conduct the guard of honour at the commemoration of Allan Black at Old Harvey Cemetery. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

“We came down five years ago to see Allan’s grave was a bare grave, following which we couldn’t hold Di back.”

As part of the application, Ms de Mestre, a general practitioner, wrote a report for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs detailing the late war veteran’s injuries from his service and the impact it had on his health.

“Shirley and Nancy worked really hard behind the scenes to make it happen,” Mr Briggs said.

Hu English represented Mr Black’s extended family at the service as the first cousin twice removed of Mr Black.

He said it was a great honour for Mr Black to be recognised for his service.

“It has been a long time coming to bring it all together,” Mr English said.

Harvey RSL president Eric Hall said he was happy how the service went.

“It was something that should have happened a long time ago,” he said.

There are expected to be commemorations for six more World War I veterans next year when their unmarked graves are upgraded to Commonwealth War Grave status.

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