A local hero returns

June 1926. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Rev. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc, returns to the Benalla district in northern Victoria to see his family. Hundreds of people pack the local hall to welcome home their war hero. Serving as a padre with the 1st Royal Cheshire Regiment, a British infantry unit that had been thrown into the counter-offensive against Germany’s massive ‘spring push’ of 1918, Captain Rev. Father McGrath was awarded the Military Cross for repeatedly venturing into no-man’s land to rescue wounded soldiers. He was nominated for the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour, for a similar act of bravery just five weeks later. After a gushing introduction, Father McGrath responds: “I have received a war decoration but let me say to you that there are many returned men – and some in Devenish, too – who are more deserving than I of the decoration I have received. Many brave men who fought in the Great War are dead. I was side by side with the Fifth Division of Anzacs and to the British soldier and the Anzac you today owe what you have and have to thank them for what you are. They saved the handing over of this country to the Germans.” Presented with a ‘wallet of notes’ to assist with his travelling expenses back to the USA, Father McGrath assures his well-wishers the money will be used to assist the sick poor instead.