Steve Hodder has a lot of passions in life, and one of them is telling stories that so often go untold.
This will be celebrated on Sunday when a book compiled by the Dubbo-based journalist and author is launched.
‘The Life Worth Fighting For’ tells the tale of Norb O’Reilly, one of 60,000 Australians killed in World War I, more specifically in the Battle of Passchendaele.
Three years of work has gone into researching and producing the book, and Mr Hodder is justifiably proud of the end result.
“I work a full-time job so pretty much every weekend for the past three years has gone into research and compiling the story, and there have been some dead-ends along the way,” he said.
“But 60,000 Australians were killed in that war and so few have their story told.
“Norb came from a pretty well-known family. His younger brother Bernard had several books published which I have read, and I was intrigued by the odd mention of his brother that was killed in the war.”
Norb O’Reilly was 26 years of age when he died three days after sustaining wounds in the major Allied offensive, the Battle of Menin Road.
He was part of a battalion engaged in combat in the Third Battle of Ypres, which was the costliest period of World War 1 with a combined tally of casualties from both sides reaching more than 500,000.
He left behind a block of land in Queensland and a fiance Maggie when he signed up two weeks prior to a referendum on conscription.
“Norb saw the likely outcome and decided he would go on his own terms, knowing full well what the likely outcome would be,” Mr Hodder said.
“He actually wrote a poem titled Cainbable Creek and sent home but it didn’t arrive until after he had been killed.
“In the book I’ve got about 80 photos, and the difference of the area before the battle and afterwards is stark, and to be honest, quite eerie.”
Telling the story of a young man taken in battle 100 years prior was never going to be easy, and with no direct descendants to call upon, Mr Hodder was forced to persevere.
“Norb was one of 10 children but because the area they moved to was so remote, a lot of them never married or had children,” Mr Hodder said.
“I was lucky that three of the four children born to those pioneers are still alive, so they provided that family link I needed.”
- Cainbable Creek was written by Norb in France and posted to his sweetheart Maggie Ward. It arrived by mail weeks after the news of Norb’s death had come by cable.
Thoughts come to me as I wander
with a loose and drooping rein
Thoughts of days gone by and ended
flash into my mind again
When I rode in blissful silence
with a heart too full to speak
There was one who rode beside me
by your banks Cainbable Creek
Crooning streamlet full of beauty
banks of darkest emerald green
Tiny waterfalls that ripple
over rocks with silken sheen
Fig-tree branches softly clustering
blending green of every shade
With a harmony more perfect
than e’re human heart has made
And there rushes swiftly o’re me
memory that is almost pain
As there comes the fresh damp perfume
of those fig-tree boughs again
Cainbable you are watching dearest
haunts me daily like a spell
Calls me back again in spirit
to the spot I love so well
Brings me back when I am weary
the peace of soul I vainly seek
Though I never more shall see you
peaceful cool Cainbable Creek