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Mystery man killed in the Great War
A picture is worth a thousand words – if only that was true with a portrait CFA has of Corporal John Sparks who was killed in action during the First World War.
CFA’s Wonthaggi Fire Station still has the photo of Corporal Sparks on their wall – almost 100 years after he was killed in France.
Other than a few basic details about where he was from and when he was enlisted, the full story about Corporal Sparks is a mystery.
Former Wonthaggi Captain Kim O’Connor said he and other current brigade members tried to find minutes from brigade meetings held back then but sadly they weren’t found.
“I walk into the fire station very regularly and often look at Corporal Sparks photo on the wall and wonder what his story was,” he said.
“We also have an Honour board in the station which lists 24 brigade members who fought in the Great War.
“Unfortunately we don’t have any further knowledge on those members either other than out of those 24 firefighters, Corporal Sparks was the only one killed in the line of duty.
“What we do know is Wonthaggi Fire Brigade apparently had one the most members enlisted in WWI out of any other brigade in Victoria.
After doing some further digging, Kim found that Corporal Sparks was employed as a wheeler at the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi.
He enlisted in the armed forces on 18 August 1914 and departed Melbourne on HMAT A24 ‘Benalla’ as part of the 8th Battalion.
Corporal John Sparks was appointed Corporal 13 days before he was killed in France on 5 August 1916.
Kim said while it’s devastating Corporal Sparks was killed during WWI, he lost his life fighting for our country and that’s something to be proud of.
“As we don’t know if Corporal Sparks has any remaining family in Wonthaggi, or even Victoria, his story remains quite a mystery, but to me and the several hundreds of CFA members that have been a part of our fire brigade over the years, he’s a hero,” he said.