Families salute Hunter soldiers lost, but not forgotten

Private Stephen Scott’s descendants do not know how he died. A gunshot wound mostly likely, his second of the war, and an obscene end at the bottom of a muddy trench.

The former infantryman was one of 77 from Newcastle’s 35th Battalion remembered during a ceremony at Sandgate Cemetery on Thursday, 100 years to the day since his death at 33 in the bloody Passchendaele campaign in Belgium.

The battle claimed at least 500,000 lives in the second half of 2017. Private Scott’s body was one of tens of thousands never recovered.

Family members and the cemetery’s World War I researcher, Gary Mitchell, unveiled a white cross bearing Private Scott’s name, adding to a growing list of similar memorials at Sandgate for lost Hunter soldiers.

Private Scott’s great-great niece Natalie Bull and her mother, Marilyn Bridges, have been researching their family history for 30 years.

“Stephen not having any family, no known grave, he’s always held some special place,” Ms Bull said after the ceremony. “You can learn from past mistakes, hopefully, and realise the sacrifice these men and women did for us and our country.

“It’s part of our history. It’s important to know where you came from.”

Private Scott was born in Scone, one of 10 children to Irish immigrants. His father was a policeman, and they moved around the Hunter while he was growing up.

“We didn’t know why, but we always gravitated back to Stephen,” Mrs Bridges said.

“It was because he had no known grave, and I just felt so sorry for the family, to think that they’ve lost a son and there’s nothing.

“I know he was one of thousands, but . . . it’s for what they went through.”