RELATIVES of the first Ballarat serviceman to be killed in the First World War travelled from New South Wales last week to honour his service and sacrifice by visiting his tree and plaque in the Avenue of Honour.
John Messenger from Humffray Street south, ‘Jack’ to his family and friends, was educated at the Golden Point State School and Ballarat Technical School before he joined the Royal Navy in 1909.
In 1912 he transferred to the newly formed Royal Australian Navy. Shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914, Australia despatched the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) to neutralise a German radio installation at Rabaul in New Guinea.
The submarine AE1 was one of the escort vessels, but on September 14th, seven months before the Gallipoli landing, it disappeared without trace
off Rabaul with the loss of 35 crew members, one of whom was Jack Messenger. Messenger is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in England, the Golden Point State School Honour Board and at tree no. 1433 in Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour.
Ian Messenger and his sister Vera Ryan (nee Messenger) and their respective spouses Jill and Peter made the journey to Ballarat, a trip they has done on a number of occasions and said they were happy to see the plaque at his tree replaced with a new one.
“The Messenger’s came to Ballarat in 1861 and I’m the third generation Messenger born here,” said Ian.
“Being here today is our way of saying thank you and remembering him and we always make a pilgrimage to the tree when we come out and it’s nice that the nameplate has been replaced.”
Older sister, Vera, added that the trip to the tree was not so much emotional but much more of a family ‘thing’ that they have been doing.
“We share funny things and happy things about the family but this is the focus,” she said pointing to the plaque.
“It was cracked and when they told us they had a new one, we were very delighted about that, because our aunt was one of the Lucas girls but we have never worked out which committee she was on, whether it was just a committee of the Lucas girls or the general committee, but it was Ruth who was the one that made sure that Jack was remembered within the family.”