Private Miller Mack returns home after 98 years

For a few moments, it was 1919 again at Raukkan.

The years rolled back and the body of a young serviceman, not long back from the western front, struck down by a disease he caught fighting for a country which did not count him as a citizen, was returned to Ngarrindjeri country, the land of his ancestors.

The bugler blew the Last Post and rifles cracked as Private Miller Mack’s coffin was lowered into the earth.

He had originally been buried in an unmarked grave in Adelaide, an injustice his great nephew, Francis Lovegrove, spent years working to right.

On Friday, Mr Lovegrove stood before Private Mack's flag-draped coffin as it lay in the Raukkan church.

"Welcome home to your country," he said.

"Thank you for making us proud.

"Now may your spirit rest in peace."

Amazing Grace and the Slim Dusty song We've Done Us Proud were played to hundreds of members of the Ngarrindjeri nation and veterans' fraternity in the church and outside.

After a military procession, the coffin was placed in the ground between the graves of two of Private Mack's brothers in arms: Walter Gollan and Gordon Rigney.

David Prior, a chaplain with the 7th Royal Australian Regiment, said the gathering was about more than Miller Mack's body being moved from one place to another.

"It's about being heard, his story being told, being remembered, being honoured," he said.

"He's never really been forgotten by you.

"This is just a time for the rest of us to catch up, and do him honour in a way we haven't before."

Miller Mack served with Australian Army at the Battle of Messines, in Belgium, where enormous mines were detonated beneath the German trenches – the subject of the film Beneath Hill 60.

He was affected by phosgene gas and evacuated to England in 1918, suffering pneumonia; it eventually led to the tuberculosis which claimed his life the next year.

Ninety-eight years later, mourners dropped poppies into his grave.


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