Cohuna Mural Tells Brave Stories



Author: Western Front Association Central Victoria Branch

Posted on

Riverine Herald, Wednesday April 6, 2022

Mural artist Tim Bowtell recently completed a mural at the Cohuna RSL Memorial Park that pays homage to those who represented Australia or assisted Australians in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The mural firstly depicts Sister Elizabeth O’Reilly, who enlisted in Cohuna to serve in World War I on June 12, 1915.

Sister O’Reilly was posted to Ismailia Hospital in Egypt where she nursed returning injured ANZACs. After serving in England and France, she returned to her family farm in Leitchville on August 17, 1919. Sister O’Reilly then moved to Melbourne where she established and was benefactor of the Airdrie House for Aged Care. She passed away in 1964 and is buried at Fawkner Cemetery.

Trooper Jonathan Church is depicted in the mural, carrying a Rwandan child who had survived the brutal massacre at the Kibeho refugee camp by soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army in 1995. Trooper Church was a Special Air Service Regiment combat medic who served with the United Nations as a member of the Australian Service Contingent in Africa. He was one of the 18 soldiers killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed near Townsville on June 12, 1996. The Chief of Army’s ‘Jonathan Church Award’ is awarded annually in his honour to junior soldiers and officers who personify compassionate and ethical soldiering. The mural of Trooper Church was inspired by a photo taken by Dr George Gittoes.

The mural also displays an iconic World War II image of wounded Private George ‘Dick’ Whittington of the 2/10th Infantry Battalion being assisted by New Guinea native, Raphael Oimbari, of the Hanau Village. Private Whittington was temporarily blinded after being shot by a sniper and was being guided to a casualty clearing station by Mr Oimbari. Private Whittington recovered but died of scrub typhus in Port Moresby on February 12, 1943.

The widow of Private Whittington met Raphael Oimbari in New Guinea in 1973. Raphael Oimbari received the Officer of the Order of the British Empire within the Papua New Guinea honours system and became a figurehead for the native carriers. 

The image of Oimbari and Whittington forms the basis of the national memorial in Port Moresby and features on a medal that the Australian Government issued to the carriers.

The original photograph was taken by George Silk on Christmas Day, 1942.

The fourth image on the mural is of one of the innocent victims of the Korean War.

On June 3, 1952, Chan — who was an orphan — was presented with a wooden pull-along toy duck. In the image, Chan salutes Corporal E. G. Dowell of the first Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment for providing him with a toy. This is one of the many toys made by the regiment for the children of Korea who were often orphaned or displaced during the conflict.

The original image of Chan and Dowell is from a photograph taken by Phillip Oliver Hobson.

republished with permission by Riverine Herald



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