News State South Australia Digger’s descendants off to France to see school named after him

Digger’s descendants off to France to see school named after him

Private Arthur Clifford Stribling died in 1918 on April 25. Photo: Australia War Memorial
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Descendants of a South Australian farmer who died 100 years ago fighting on the Western Front are heading to France, where a school will be named after him in honour of his sacrifice.

Private Arthur Clifford Stribling died in 1918, on the day of the year which would later become ANZAC Day (April 25).

He was wounded at Villers-Bretonneux and was buried in the nearby village of Blangy-Tronville.

One hundred years on, the French town’s primary school will be named after Private Stribling.

Former SA premier Jay Weatherill explained last year that Private Stribling was not chosen because he was a decorated war hero, but because he personified “the typical Aussie digger”.

A group from his home town – Tarlee in SA’s mid-north – will be there on April 25 as he is honoured.

Tarlee resident Michelle Heathfield will be travelling to France with her husband and two children for the renaming ceremony.

“It’s his name that is going on the school, but I think it also covers everybody that went over there – all those soldiers at that particular time,” she said.

The Willis family – descendants of Arthur Stribling – knew very little about their great uncle until the Clare and Gilbert Council received an out-of-the-blue phone call from France, asking if the digger had any living relatives.

Blangy-Tronville’s public elementary school. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Descendent Lisa Willis will also be part of the group travelling to France, with the trip’s expenses covered by a combination of fundraising and a $30,000 grant from the previous state government.

Most of the group, including the Willis family, have not been overseas before.

“Myself and my husband would not have not even been able to raise that money to take our kids to France, so it’s been a good thing,” Lisa Willis said.

Students from Tarlee Primary School are also travelling with the group. They have been learning about Private Stribling and the history of World War I in the lead up to the trip.

“It is quite an honour to be in this situation because we are such small town,” student Emily Heathfield said.

A portrait of Private Stribling painted by renowned South Australian artist Robert Hannaford, who lives near Tarlee, is being given to the township of Blangy-Tronville from the Tarlee community.

“I offered to do it for free because I am a local lad and so is Mr Stribling,” Mr Hannaford said.