When Tom Watson, of Launceston Church Grammar School, in Tasmania, discovered he was selected for the Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour in 2017, there was a question of choosing a soldier to research.
To Tom's knowledge, none of his family had fought in World War One. Lacking a family connection, Tom wanted to research someone with an intriguing story. With this in mind, Tom decided to research Tasmanian Aboriginal soldier, William Samuel Maynard.
Born in a time of entrenched racism and mistreatment of the Indigenous peoples of Australia, Will was always going to have it tough.
When Tom came to research Will, he found it difficult to relate to and empathise with a man who had lived and died so long before he was born. All that changed, when Tom made the pilgrimage to the Louverval British Military Cemetery, in France. Suddenly, the research became very significant. Tom was looking across the same fields, standing in the same place – in the same soil – in which Will Maynard had stood. In a letter to Will, which Tom wrote for the pilgrimage, he questioned:
“Why enlist in the first place? Why fight for a country that did not even recognise your people as existing, and when it did, claimed you were an ‘inferior race’? That question I may never answer, but I hope that in my research, I might come just a little bit closer.”