Maitland Regional Museum display exhibition on 34th Battalion, Maitland's own in honour of the centenary of the First Battle of Passchendaele

Maitland’s rich war history will be on show from this weekend in honour of the centenary of the First Battle of Passchendaele and the involvement of the 34th Battalion. 

Maitland Regional Museum will showcase the people and stories of the the 34th Battalion, known as Maitland’s Own, at Brough House for two months from this Saturday.

The Battalion was formed in January 1916 at a camp established at the Maitland Showground.

The first recruits arrived at Maitland after joining a march that began at Walgett, and were known as the Wallabies.

After arriving in the UK in June 1916, the battalion spent five months training before crossing to France and moving into the trenches of the Western Front on November 27.

The 34th Battalion took part in its first major battle, in Messines, on June 7.

After several stints in the trenches, and a period of rest and training, the unit entered battle again on October 12 around Passchendaele.

When they arrived, the battlefield had been slammed with rain creating thick mud, which thwarted efforts to advance and fouled their weapons.

The battle ended in a disastrous defeat, with more than half of the 34th Battalion killed.

The idea to honour the soldiers’ sacrifice in Passchendaele came from Maitland historian Peter Bogan.

He helped form a committee before a call was sent out for memorabilia and stories of local soldiers, with an array of items contributed for the exhibition.

The museum was awarded a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to create the exhibition, which runs until November 26.

Maitland Regional Museum chairwoman Janece McDonald said it was really humbling to be able to share the stories with the Maitland community.

“You research these stories, but then you come in here and look at the items and it almost brings you to tears,” she said.

“These items were documented so beautifully. It’s a part of our history and heritage.”

The exhibition looks beyond the battles and the fighting, and explores the impact of the war on the surviving soldiers, as well as families back home.

The exhibition will be available to view from Friday-Sunday from 10am-3pm. Entry is a gold coin donation.

This story Stories of the Coalfields soldiers first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.