Regrettably, each year, the loss of Brigadier Arthur Leslie Varley in the South China Sea in 1944 passes without public acknowledgement in Inverell on September 13.
He was among many prisoners-of-war - the Tome brothers, Sergeant Frank Tome and Corporal Mark J. Tome, from Inverell among them - being transported by Japanese ship to further forced labour in Japan and other parts of Asia.
Varley's ship was sunk by Americans who were unaware that there were allied soldiers on board.
Some were rescued by the Americans. Brigadier Varley was last seen in a boat after the sinking. It is assumed that he was subsequently killed by the Japanese or died at sea. His loss was a tragedy, for his men and for Inverell.
Varley Oval is our town monument to the Brigadier's memory.
In his honour, perhaps the Oval could be the site for a September spring festival of some kind each year at this time, including community games.
Varley played cricket in Inverell and, when commanding the 3000-strong A Force on the Burma/Myanmar side of the infamous Thailand-Burma Railway, encouraged his men to play sport as a morale booster in atrocious circumstances. Funeral games were an institution in the classical world designed to honour the dead.
Our young people deserve to know more about Varley.
His distinguished military record in Europe during the First World War, his spirit of community engagement when he subsequently lived in Inverell between the wars, his brief service as Colonel, then Brigadier, in Malaya before the fall of Singapore in 1942, his strong leadership of A Force and his determined perseverance on the Railway, compel our admiration and can be an inspiration to our youth.
Perhaps, in Varley's honour, we can think of instituting a program to help young people in Inverell become more focused on the international sphere, on both Europe and Asia, where Varley served with distinction. A scholarship would be ideal, alternating between study in Europe and Asia.
A further possibility might be to set up an International Varley Youth (IVY) League to raise local awareness about international affairs and encourage international exchanges for Inverell youth.
Varley Youth could be encouraged to maximise their spirit of community service in Inverell and abroad.
On a community level, Varley's memory might inspire Inverell to support an active program of welcoming international students, from the University of New England especially, for visits to the town, providing accommodation and hospitality for them for a few days at a time. We have Asian connections among us already in these international students. Individual residents of Inverell have already taken the initiative in establishing links with Asia - with Burma/Myanmar, for example.
Perhaps the town could build on that work and take a special interest in this particular Asian country initially, remembering the work of Varley and his men at the northern end of the Railway.
An Inverell Varley Society might host this program and also sponsor an educational effort that includes an annual Varley Memorial Lecture. Some aspect of working for international peace and understanding might be the topic.
Sadly, the photos of Brigadier Varley, and those of his soldier sons, languish in the Pioneer Village at the moment.
They need to be more accessible, perhaps with copies in the Inverell Tourist Centre, with information about them readily available. Schools might like to have copies of the photos - or at least that of A.L. Varley - on site. It is a matter of special pleasure that windows in the local Anglican Church commemorate this family's record of distinguished service to the nation.
While recalling Brigadier Varley and the subject of war service, may I express the fervent hope that the new and refurbished Inverell Hospital will make space to honour Kathleen Neuss, at least, an Inverell nurse murdered at Banka Island after the Singapore evacuation and the sinking of the Vyner Brooke on February 14, 1942. Her photo too - or a copy of it from the one in the Pioneer Village - should be made more accessible to Inverell people and visitors to the town.
The date deserves public commemoration in Inverell, perhaps at the hospital eventually, and the story of these courageous nurses should be told for the inspiration it continues to give us all.