ONE century on and from the other side of the world, one Wagga man’s name has stood the ultimate test of time.
Leslie Barrand was among thousands of soldiers who inscribed their names into underground tunnels across the Somme region of France during WWI.
Written in lead pencil or carved into the cave walls, the inscriptions have been remarkably discovered in tact by archaeologist, Dr Gilles Prilaux.
Of the 3000 names so far uncovered, Leslie is the first identified with links to regional Australia.
“I was so excited because he was on of our soldiers,” Museum of the Riverina curator Michelle Maddison said after Dr Prilaux made contact at Easter.
“They’re very passionate about keeping history alive.”
The tunnels were carved by farmers embroiled in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618 to 1648. By the 18th century, the entrance to the three-kilometre-long tunnels had been blocked off, but were rediscovered by a priest in 1887.
In July 2014, Dr Prilaux began a three-year study of the tunnels, intending to focus on the site’s medieval past, only to stumble upon its more recent history. He found that the soldiers went to the region not to seek shelter, but to visit the site made famous for its cave systems.
It is a fascinating discovery that is a nod to the Australian soldiers marking their lasting legacy.
“Australians have a history of putting our names where we probably shouldn’t,” Ms Maddison said.
“We’re kind of larrikins.It puts a human face to the soldiers who fought in WWI.”
Ms Maddison said the discovery put Wagga on the map and reinforced Australia’s relationship with France.
“To think that he is being remembered in the city of Naours, as well as in Wagga, is a wonderful testament to the strong bonds that were created through warfare, bonds which continue 100 hundred years later, and remind us, once again, that we actually do live in a small world,” she said.
Leslie, a farmer born in Victoria, served as a sniper at Gallipoli and France before rising to the rank of sergeant.
The recipient of a Military Medal, Lesley relocated to Wagga in 1919. He was an active member of Wagga Rifle Club, president of the Returned Soldiers’ League, alderman for 20 years and mayor for three consecutive terms.
Lesley had Barrand Street named after him in 1955 and later died in Sydney in 1968.
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