GREAT HONOUR: Leanne Ross with the crosses made by school students from Emerald.
GREAT HONOUR: Leanne Ross with the crosses made by school students from Emerald. Rebekah Yelland

Leanne's journey to war graves

ANZAC Day is always important to Leanne Ross but this year it will hold many special memories as she spends it at Villers-Bretonneux.

The high school history teacher was chosen as chaperone for the Premier's Anzac Prize, which takes eight school students and two teachers as chaperones, on a trip to experience Anzac tradition first-hand.

Ms Ross was chosen after an extensive selection process that included a written submission and a phone interview.

"It is an amazing honour and a huge responsibility to be chosen as a chaperone for this trip,” she said.

"It took three attempts to be a finalist and thankfully I was selected this time.”

As part of the prize, the participants were given five crosses and instructed to visit at least three primary schools to invite students to decorate the crosses which would be placed at a grave of soldier while the group toured Somme or Flanders.

"In order to involve the whole community I had extra crosses sent to me and one of Year 12 students and his father made some additional crosses for me so the council, RSL and scouts can also participate,” Ms Ross said.

"The aim is to bring the boys of Emerald home to the community by visiting all the schools and starting a discourse on their service, and to honour their service as a community.”

The group will leave Australia on April 9 and visit the Imperial War Memorial and the National Australian Memorial to hold a ceremony to honour the fallen of Gallipoli.

"As a part of the Premier's Prize we also have to research three servicemen each which will be honoured in special services at different ceremonies throughout the Somme and Flanders,” Ms Ross said.

"We will have some more sightseeing opportunities before heading to the major battlefields of the Somme in France and Flanders in Belgium.

"There is a good mix of sightseeing as well as formal ceremonies.

"We have 10 formal ceremonies where wreaths will be laid, as well as 30 eulogies that will be presented at different cemeteries to commemorate the 30 servicemen researched.

"While away I'll be honouring James Bennett, an Emerald lad who died in Belgium, as well as my great uncle at Villers-Bretonneux and another servicemen who died aged 41.”


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