Marking cenotaph's centenary

It began with a beautiful photograph of Riverstone's historic cenotaph, and will culminate this weekend in a commemoration of the town's fighting spirit.

The town will stand proud on Saturday, November 9 for Cenotaph 100, commemorating 100 years since the Riverstone and Districts Patriotic League unveiled a tribute to local fallen soldiers.

Marking a century: Riverstone's historic cenotaph near the railway station. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Marking a century: Riverstone's historic cenotaph near the railway station. Picture: Geoff Jones.

The occasion serves as not only a reminder of the deep-seated military heritage and fighting spirit of Riverstone and surrounding areas, but also aims to strengthen the sense of belonging in the ever-growing community, and promote the local RSL sub-branch.

Business development manager at Riverstone Business Park - located at the old Riverstone Meatworks - Mike Shervington has interviewed family members or returned soldiers themselves in the lead-up to the occasion, telling the story of many local heroes.

Unknown connection: The late Joe Counter, left, and Mike Shervington served in the same regiment. Picture: Supplied.

Unknown connection: The late Joe Counter, left, and Mike Shervington served in the same regiment. Picture: Supplied.

But the interviews also unearthed an extraordinary personal connection between several members of the town's residents that were previously unknown.

Well-known local Joe Counter, who passed away in July this year, served in the British Army in WWII prior to emigrating to Australia. He served in the elite parachute regiment and spent more than 1000 days as a prisoner of war after participating in the first ever large-scale parachute drop behind enemy lines in North Africa in 1942.

He worked at the Riverstone Meatworks after moving to the area.

Mr Shervington himself served in the same regiment from 1996 to 2017, and heard about Mr Counter at a Riverstone Schofields and Districts Chamber of Commerce breakfast. The two eventually met and were able to discuss the regiment and Mr Counter's wartime exploits.

In addition, Chamber of Commerce patron Bill McNamara's brother, Jack, served in the RAAF in WWII, flying bombers and transport aircraft.

Patron: Riverstone Schofields and District Chamber of Commerce patron, Bill McNamara. Picture: Supplied.

Patron: Riverstone Schofields and District Chamber of Commerce patron, Bill McNamara. Picture: Supplied.

Served with honour: Jack McNamara, whose name is inscribed on the Riverstone cenotaph. PIcture: McNamara family.

Served with honour: Jack McNamara, whose name is inscribed on the Riverstone cenotaph. PIcture: McNamara family.

Jack McNamara flew allied paratroopers into D Day on June 6, 1944, and it is highly likely he flew soldiers from the parachute regiment into the infamous Battle of Arnhem in September 1944.

Jack was killed when his aircraft was shot down over Norway in December 1944, and his name is inscribed on the Riverstone cenotaph.

"The bottom line is that Joe and [I] served in the same regiment, Jack more thank likely piloted the aircraft that flew the same regiment in WWII, and all four - Joe, Bill, Jack and [I] - have a connection to Riverstone and the old meatworks," Mr Shervington said.

"They say that we are only four degrees of separation from each other but the multiple coincidences connecting Joe Counter, Bill McNamara and [myself] to each other are extraordinary nonetheless."

Chamber president Sue Lawrence said the story was one of many that had brought the community together thanks to Cenotaph 100.

"This campaign started with a brilliant photo taken by local photographer Warren Kirby and developed into Cenotaph 100," she said.

"We are so happy with the reaction of the community to these stories, the pride it has given our local heroes and look forward to a great event."

Commemorations will begin at 10.30am on Saturday at Riverstone war memorial, Riverstone Parade.