Lismore man Joe Stratford is believed by many to have been the first Anzac to have charged on to the beach at what would later be called Anzac Cove on that fateful April 25 dawn in 1915.
“Joe Stratford was the first of Australia’s troops ashore at Gallipoli. Lieutenant Jones was second and I was third,” Private Stu Gahan told a local paper in 1916.
In Roll of Honour documents held by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, a notation authenticates his place in history: “Stated by eye witness to be first Australian ashore on Gallipoli.”
Letters and records reveal Cpl Stratford claimed two enemies before falling over them dead, riddle with bullets.
It is claimed one officer at the time said Cpl Stratford was worthy of a Victorian Cross medal for his bravery on that morning. He was not alone.
The rising sun over the peninsula that morning revealed the horrors of war and was just the first hours of an eight-month campaign which would claim thousands of lives.
Pte Gahan also wrote a letter to Joe’s parents, Thomas and Alice Stratford, who lived in Conway Street, Lismore.
“There was not a man amongst us who did not love and look up to him. He was fair and straight. I felt when he did not answer the roll call that I had lost an elder brother,” he wrote.
According to War Memorial particulars, Joseph Stratford was a 32-year-old grocer who was born at Goolmangar, about 20 kilometres north-west of Lismore, and attended school at Goonellabah.
He was a Sargent in the NSW Scottish Rifles and enlisted with Queensland’s 9th Battalion AIF soon after the outbreak of World War I.
Like many of his colleagues at Gallipoli, the people of Lismore hold Joseph Stratford in the highest regard.
He was truly a local who never made it home … but whose name has been etched in stone at the Lone Pine Memorial which honours the fallen at Gallipoli.
Without doubt he was one of the bravest among the brave.
The Great War
World War I, also called the Great War, was a conflict of unprecedented extent and ferocity.
European territorial and economic rivalries had been intensified by the growing power of Germany and the conflict was sparked by the assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary (Germany’s close ally) and his wife Sophie, by 19-year-old fanatic Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.
The Sarajevo murder led to a series of declarations of war including Britain’s against Germany on August. Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Canada and Russia made up the Allies.
The USA entered the war in April 1917. On the other side, Germany, Austria and Turkey formed the main nations of the Central Powers.
By the time the war ended, Armistice Day – November 11, 1918 – 17 million (including more than 60,000 Australian lay dead or were missing.
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