Wallace Ridley was teaching at Coonabarabran when World War I began. He wanted to join up but there was an obstacle: he was not yet 21 and needed to get the consent of his parents.
His mother agreed on February 17, 1915 and Wallace joined up shortly afterwards. He reached Gallipoli by August and was killed in the charge on Hill 60 on August 27. His body was never recovered.
Wallace Ridley was one of the hundreds of teachers of the then NSW Department of Public Instruction who enlisted in the armed forces during World War I. The teacher stories are unique because these men were closely identified with their profession.
As public servants, the teachers applied for leave to join the armed services and each received a letter granting leave on a series of conditions. I have been able to find only one of these letters in National Archives, written to John McGinnis at Kurri Kurri PS.
Some District Inspectors grumbled that the teacher might be enlisting to get out of a difficult appointment, but for most teachers the leave was granted willingly. The Department paid them an amount above their army pay so they remained on the same income they had as a teacher.
Quite a few teachers enlisted early in the war and so a number took part in the Landing on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. One was Harry Wharton, who was teaching at Grosses Plains, near Jindabyne, before enlistment. He lay mortally wounded until found by his brother, Les. Wharton was taken to a hospital ship but died of his wounds and was buried at sea. He was 26 years old.