A young tradesman, who helped install the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience in his city, discovered the travelling exhibition features the exploits of a famous relative.
Lee Towner, who is about to join the Navy, was employed to work on the exhibition in Townsville in September and came across a section that details the courageous actions of his great-great uncle, Major Edgar Towner, at the Battle of Mont St Quentin on the Western Front in France.
Mr Towner was aware of the family connection to Major Towner, but didn’t know the battle his famous relative fought in was featured in the exhibition he was helping to install.
“I saw the name and mentioned to another staff member that I was related to Edgar Towner, and all of a sudden there was all this media interest, and Channel Seven interviewed me for the television news,” Mr Towner said.
On 1 September 1918, Major Towner took part in the assault on Mont St Quentin, a major battle of the Second World War, and was one of three Australians to be awarded Victoria Crosses on the same day.
Commanding a machinegun section, Major Towner was involved in the Allied counter-offensive that broke the German lines at Mont St Quentin and Péronne.
Fighting for 30 hours after being wounded, his “conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty” earned him the highest award for gallantry, which was presented by King George V in April 1919.
Major Towner survived the war and settled down in Longreach, where he died in 1972, at the age of 82.
In a further family connection, Mr Towner’s great-great aunt, Sister Greta Towner, served with the Australian Army Nursing Service in Egypt and on the Greek island of Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign, and later in France.
Mr Towner's building days will soon be behind him, having recently been accepted as a recruit in the Royal Australian Navy.