Memorial service to be held for Alstonville hero
A MEMORIAL service at Alstonville on Saturday aims to commemorate the life of a local hero, but also to remember all the young men from the area who gave their life in war.
The service will mark the centenary of the action for which World War I Digger, Private Paddy Bugden, was posthumously awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, and his death.
Pte Bugden received the Victoria Cross for his bravery over three days from September 26-28, 1917, during the battle of Polygon Wood, near Ypres, Belgium.
Pte Bugden was recommended for the Victoria Cross on October 12, 1917, and the honour was formally gazetted on November 23, 1917.
Paddy, serving with the 31st Battalion, had enlisted in the army from Alstonville where his stepfather and mother owned the Federal Hotel. He was born in Tatham near Casino.
During the battle of Polygon Wood, he on two occasions led small parties to attacks on enemy machine gun positions, on five occasions rescued wounded men trapped by enemy fire and also single-handedly went to the aid of an Australian soldier who had been captured by the enemy.
He was aged 20 when he was killed by shrapnel in action on September 28, 1917.
He is buried at Hooge Crater cemetery at Zillebeke in Belgium.
President of the Alstonville RSL Sub-Branch, Mark Quilligan, said Paddy Bugden showed "amazing courage".
"He probably could have been awarded the Victoria Cross at least five times," he said.
He said the local community was heavily impacted by the First World War.
The Bugden family was a classic example, with four cousins going off to war, but only one returned home.
"Initially we had grief about the death of Paddy, but that has now changed to a celebration of the life of one immensely brave young fellow," Mr Quilligan said.
"And he is representative of all the brave young fellows who served."
The commemoration service will be held at the Paddy Bugden Memorial, Bugden Ave, Alstonville.
About 70 descendants of Paddy Bugden are expected to attend, as well as Doug and Kay Baird, the parents of recent Victoria Cross recipient, the late Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG.
This memorial was consecrated 1997 and was a project of the Rotary Club of Alstonville, with funds raised for the sculpture from the community.
It is sited adjacent to the original memorial unveiled in 1948.
The service will start at 10.40am on Saturday, with members of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment to provide the cataflaque party, supported by soldiers of the 41st Battalion, the Royal NSW Regiment.
A Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft will conduct a fly-past at 11.30am.
Following the service, a community barbecue will be held at the Federal Hotel in Alstonville.
Alstonville Rotarian John Barnes in 2011 wrote a book on Paddy Bugden VC, titled I Fear Nothing.
Copies of that book will be available for sale after the commemoration service, with the proceeds being shared by Legacy and the Veterans Advocacy Centre located in Alstonville.
To ready more on the life of Paddy Bugden VC, see pages 21-23.