A new book by Wagga ex-pat, John Sheahan, about Australia’s worst military training accident and largest military funeral on home soil will be released in time for Remembrance Day.
The launch of The Kapooka Tragedy: remembering May 21, 1945 on November 9 is intended to coincide with Remembrance Day because the book acknowledges a group of sappers whose sacrifice, until recently, was largely forgotten and their families who were left to mourn alone.
On May 21, 1945, at the Royal Australian Engineers’ training base at Kapooka, 26 sappers were killed in an inexplicable explosion during a training exercise. Ministers of religion and parliament declared that these men, most of whom were young, fresh recruits, had died in their country’s service just as assuredly had they died in battle, and that they would be remembered.
“There are two parts to this tragedy – the explosion and then the silence,” author John Sheahan said.
“In this book I have tried to give each of the 26 men his own space.
“I was fortunate to have been able to speak to some surviving relatives and friends. Of others, I know little which, in itself, speaks volumes.”
In researching the explosion and its aftermath, Sheahan interviewed witnesses, friends and family members over four years.
He was often struck by the lasting effect on them of having to mourn the tragedy in isolation, privately.
It raised the question of whether those who died far from battle, those who died on home soil, are less deserving of remembrance than those who were killed in battle?
The book will be launched at Wagga City Library on Monday, November 9 at 4.30pm.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.