Mates first, then and now

Private Wayne Drage’s voice wavered as he spoke about the day his great-great uncle was wounded during the battle of the Somme.

CAPTIONThe Australian Imperial Force Mouquet Farm Memorial near the village of Pozières, France. Story and photos by Corporal Jacob Joseph.

Standing on a nondescript corner of the village of Pozières, he said it was the very spot Private Charles Todd was shot through the thigh.

He pointed to an innocuous stone wall that ran the length of the road and told the other Jonathan Church Good Soldiering Award recipients about the action that ultimately led to his relative’s death.

Part of 46th Battalion, Private Todd was one of tens of thousands of Australian casualties from the fighting, which lasted months.

Wounded twice, he was evacuated to England where he died from infection.

CAPTIONPrivate Wayne Drage, from 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment stands near the spot where his great-grand uncle was wounded during the First World War in the village of Pozières, France.

The Aussies eventually captured Pozières and surrounds, but suffered horrific losses.

More Australians died in Pozières than on any other battlefield in France.

Charles Bean described the ground as ‘sown with Australian sacrifice’.

The significance was not lost on the Rockhampton rifleman from 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, as he described the fighting to his companions.

“The emotion built as I researched the battle and his story,” he said.

“It was carnage. They didn’t know if they were going to live or die. Being in the spot where he fought made it finally feel real.”

He said the story of Private Todd’s death was not something his great-grandmother talked about after the war but the research task allowed him to look at his family history a little closer.

“It happened that through this assignment I was able to find out more about my great-great uncle and understand what he went through before he died,” Private Drage said.

Private Drage and the other award recipients were in France and Belgium to learn about leadership through the lens of Australian military history in World War 1.

From Aug 16-30, the four recipients are visiting significant locations across the Western Front and each was required to deliver a presentation on notable Australian actions.

The Jonathan Church Good Soldiering Award acknowledges junior soldiers who consistently demonstrate Army’s values.

CAPTIONPrivate Wayne Drage, from 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment shows other Jonathan Church Good Soldiering Award recipients a picture of Australian soldiers from WW1.

Private Drage received the commendation for his involvement with his community, including foster caring for vulnerable children.

With his ‘mates-first’ attitude, he prioritises the welfare of current and ex-serving members and promotes Army recruiting efforts in central and northern Queensland.

The father of three works full-time as a tactical response officer for Queensland Corrective Services.

He can have three to four foster children in his care at any given time and has provided care for more than 20 children in nine years.

“For me, Army is all about looking out for your mates,” Private Drage said.

“The people who fought on Pozières and the Western Front had nothing but their mates to get them through it.”


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