NEVER FORGOTTEN: Pastor Lee Dallmann's grandfather Henry Roser.
NEVER FORGOTTEN: Pastor Lee Dallmann's grandfather Henry Roser. Contributed

Pastor will remember his mate and family members

CHINCHILLA pastor Lee Dallmann has felt the personal blows of war, grief and loss.

In preparation to be the celebrant for his good friend's wedding, he was organising the relevant paperwork when he received a call on June 8, 2010, to tell him Jacob Moerland had been killed in a bomb blast on his first tour in Afghanistan the previous day.

Pastor Dallman's fallen but not forgotten mate Jacob Moerland.
Pastor Dallman's fallen but not forgotten mate Jacob Moerland. Contributed

"I had his wedding paperwork on my desk when I got the call. I honestly couldn't speak for a couple of hours.

"He had called me from Afghanistan in May asking if I could perform his wedding when he was on leave in November, and instead I performed his military funeral in Gayndah.”

Pastor Dallmann said he had known 21-year-old Jacob since he was young as he had been a pastor in Gayndah, in the South Burnett.

He said memorial days such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day had been "very important” to Jacob.

"I'd say that what Jacob would say now is that men and women died for the freedom we have. War isn't pleasant and it's not to be celebrated, but we've got to pray for peace and look forward to the future with confidence.

"I used to go to the services, but now it's Jacob that I'm also thinking of so it brings a whole new meaning.

"For every name on every cenotaph, there's a family and community that's been in grief.”

Pastor Dallmann, who is with the Western Downs Community Church and has lived in Chinchilla for 20years, said it was important to remember the freedom we have has come at a price.

"We have freedom to learn and be who we want to be, and the freedom of choice, and that has come through the sacrifice of so many people.

"It's been hard fought by previous generations and now the current generation as well.”

Pastor Dallmann - who with his daughter Anna, 18, is visiting the French battlefields in January - believes there's a rising awareness around Remembrance Day and Anzac Day, with many people travelling to the battlefields in France and Gallipoli.

"We've got monuments in every town in Australia, and I think they've been given added meaning and I think it's brought it into focus.

"It's a real motivator to look for peace instead of war.”

In World War II, Pastor Dallmann's grandfather Henry Roser - a 'Rat of Tobruk' - was one of 10 siblings who enlisted and fought, and eventually returned home to Australia.

Pastor Lee Dallmann's grandfather Henry Roser.
Pastor Lee Dallmann's grandfather Henry Roser. Contributed

Their mother, Matilda Hilton, lived on a property at Silver Spur, near Texas, on the Queensland-NSW border and had 15 children, including 11 boys.

"The youngest boy was 14 and he tried to enlist but they wouldn't let him,” Pastor Dallmann said.

"As far as anyone can ascertain, it's the largest number of siblings from one family to serve during the conflict from any nation.

Pastor Dallmann's great grandmother Matilda Hilton.
Pastor Dallmann's great grandmother Matilda Hilton. Contributed

He said the second youngest son was 16 and he put his age up as 18 was the legal age to enlist, although a letter was required if you were under 21.

"My grandfather was 36 and he put his age down as the maximum age was 35.

"Being a Rat of Tobruk, even as little kids we were aware there was something special about Granddad.”

Pastor Dallmann said his grandfather - who had two children after the war - didn't talk about his war experiences until the end of his life, when he was in his 80s.

"He said it was a horrific experience. He was an ambulance driver so he used to cart wounded people and bury the dead, particularly in New Guinea.

"But he also had funny stories and said you had to find the humour among it all. One day he and another guy were asked to bury a trooper and, as they were digging, they heard a voice say, 'Hey, have you got a fag?'

"And it was the soldier who they were meant to bury sitting up behind them. Unfortunately he died the next day in the hospital.”

Pastor Dallmann's great-grandmother, Matilda Hilton, received a letter from the president of the US after the war, presenting her with a brooch with 10 stars on it for having possibly the most children to fight in the war.

"And she wore it every day until she died.”

He said there was still a memorial at the bowls club in Texas in honour of the family.

"There's pictures of the 10brothers with Matilda in the middle of it. It's a bit of forgotten history.”

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