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Home » News » Local » Anzac Day: Brisbane man in his 70’s uncovering ‘surprising’ war stories of dad and uncle

Anzac Day: Brisbane man in his 70’s uncovering ‘surprising’ war stories of dad and uncle

Noel Synnott holding a photo of his uncle who served in the First World War

Family memories: Noel Synnott holds a photo of his uncle, Corporal Bartle Patrick Synnott, who was killed in action in Lagnicourt on May 24, 1917. He only learnt of his uncle’s service in the war nine years ago. Photo: Emilie Ng.

NOEL Synnott almost lived his entire life without knowing his dad’s fingerprints are on the infamous Amiens Gun captured by Australian soldiers in 1918.

The 79-year-old Dutton Park parishioner only found out nine years ago that his father and uncle were heroes in the First World War.

Mr Synnott said nine years ago a schoolmate found the military records for his uncle Lieutenant Bartle Patrick Synnott and his father Corporal James Hardy Synnott.

Their part in the horrible war, which nearly wiped out an entire generation of young Australian men 100 years ago, was never talked about at home.

A former student of St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, Mr Synnott also found out at the school’s “Vintage Terraciens” morning teas that his uncle was a member of the 1906 Terrace First Fifteen and another uncle a dux of the college.

“It was all a surprise to me, really,” Mr Synnott said.

“I’ve had these war records, eight or nine years, and I can’t remember where they came from except I think an old classmate of mine was at the war memorial and just as a matter of interest he got these for me.

“Perhaps the older members, my aunts, thought I knew these things, but I didn’t really.”

Corporal Synnott enlisted in the war on May 20, 1916, and a year later fought in and survived some of the worst battles on the Western Front in Bapaume, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Bullecourt, Ypres, Ancre, Amiens, Albert and Mont St Quentin.

“See all the battles my father was in,” Mr Synnott said, looking at his father’s military record.

“I never knew it.”

Amazingly, Corporal Synnott was a member of the platoon that captured the infamous Amiens Gun, a German 28-centimetre railway gun, the barrel of which stands out the front of the Australian War Memorial.

“My brother used to say that (their father captured the railway gun) but I thought he meant Dad’s battalion, but it was Dad,” Mr Synnott said.

“It was his platoon, the platoon is about twenty men, so Dad was in the thick of it.”

Corporal Synnott died in 1944, when Mr Synnott was just five years old.

“He was gassed (in the war) and that shortened his life to some extent,” Mr Synnott said.

His memories of his father are vague but he remembers that his parents “were strong churchgoers”.

Lieutenant Synnott did not live to see his older brother’s achievements on the Western Front, having been killed in battle in Lagnicourt on May 24, 1917, the feast of Our Lady of Help of Christians.

Five years after his uncle’s death, that Marian feast day inspired the name for the Bowen Hills war memorial church, Our Lady of Victories, where a plaque in honour of Lieutenant Synnott – with his name misspelt – was bolted above the old baptistery.

Mr Synnott, who worked for 40 years as a canon lawyer for the Brisbane archdiocese, received a phone call from the parish last month notifying him of the plaque.

It was the first time he had heard about it.

He stood beneath the plaque last week, laughing at the misspelling of his surname.

“Which makes me think that maybe that was donated by someone else because I would have thought Grandma and Granddad would have got the spelling right,” Mr Synnott said.

He also recently found photos of his uncle, one of his tombstone and two of him in military uniform “rustling around in the house” where he has lived for the past 40 years.

One military photo is signed in gold pen, “Your old cobber. Bart Synnott”.

This weekend the parish will hold a memorial Mass to honour the nearly 2000 Catholic soldiers, sailors and nurses who died in the war, and whose names are listed in an honour roll now reinstated in the church.

Mr Synnott, born 23 years after his uncle died in France, was among the descendants who would kneel down to pray for the family members whose lives were forever changed by the war.

“It’s very thoughtful of people in the parish to be thinking of people, perfect strangers basically, who died 100 years ago,” Mr Synnott said.

It’s now up to Mr Synnott to spread word of his uncle and father’s heroic role in the First World War to the next generation.

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