How do you find a veteran’s unmarked grave?

We check burial records provided by the cemetery and walk the cemetery with a map, looking for bare-earth plots. We look for males and their year of birth — before 1870 they were too old to enlist and after 1900 too young. We then research their military service records and other sources, and we attempt to find their descendants.

Who qualified for a war grave?

Those who died on active service overseas in World War 1 and those returned soldiers whose deaths are reasonably attributable to their war service.  Convention dictates that ‘overseas’ meant having disembarked in  Egypt en-route to the front.

Why weren’t these soldiers buried in war graves?

The main reason is that someone had to apply for a war grave. It seems many people didn’t know that. Also, many of these men died without a family, or were estranged from them, often because of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. Essentially, nobody remembered their service to Australia.

Why do you only search for World War 1 veterans?

It’s a question of resources, with the number of World War 1 veterans to trace in Tasmania being about 800 and in South Australia about 1,000.

Who erects and pays for the headstones?

Volunteers of The Headstone Project erect them, usually helped by people in the local community.   Tasmania has benefitted from labour provided by Work For The Dole participants.  The cost is about $600 per soldier — much less than it would be without the support of our in-kind sponsors.  Since 2018 we have received funding from state and local governments for projects in Tasmania and South Australia. This has made a huge difference to our capacities. Also in 2019, the Federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs started a two-year pilot project offering up to $450 to pay for bronze plaques.

What do you mean by “in-kind” sponsors?

A large proportion of the materials in headstones is generously supplied by companies all around the country: cement by Adelaide Brighton Cement and Cement Australia; reinforcing by Bestbar; heavy-duty adhesive to affix the plaques by Sika; hardware by Bunnings.  Their generosity has considerably reduced the cash cost of our projects.