11 May, 2021
More than memorabilia
Emerald State High School teacher Leanne Ross took the Highlands Leader through her unique personal collection.
EMERALD State High School (ESHS) opened a unique collection of historical war memorabilia for viewing by students to coincide with Anzac Day commemorations.
ESHS teacher and owner of the collection Leanne Ross said she was inspired to build it after the passing of her late husband.
“As a romantic gesture, he used to get me stuff like this and come home with, instead of flowers and chocolates, camo nets and an ammo box or a bayonet… every girl needs a baby gas mask,” she said.
“When he passed… I used some of the money that he left to start to start buying a few more items.
“Then I just started using my savings, and this is what I’ve now got.”
Mrs Ross said the collection contained items that were “exceptionally rare”, such as a hat worn by Belgium soldiers in World War I.
“You won’t ever see another one of these,” she said.
“Not even the Australian War Memorial has got one.
“It’s really cool that a little school collection has got an incredibly rare artifact.”
Prized among the collection is Mrs Ross’s collection of World War I death pennies.
“My fabled death pennies that I love and adore,” she said.
“Death pennies were given to families of the fallen. Each one of them would come with a certificate that had their regiment and their rank.
“I’ve got one over there that’s so rubbed that you barely read the name.
“You can just imagine the mum going up every day and going ‘That’s my boy, that’s my boy…’.”
Mrs Ross said the pennies provided a great learning opportunity for the students.
“My death pennies are being used by my year nine honours class,” she said.
“We’re uploading all of their biographies into HistoryPin on the weekend.
“Anybody can see the recipient; they managed to find four photographs, which is really unusual.”
Mrs Ross said although she was happy the collection had a place at the school, there were constraints on the ability to properly display and care for the exhibit.
“The school has been very generous in supplying a room for the collection… not every school would do that,” she said.
“Ideally, I’d love some financial support to get more of these cabinets, so I can spread out the collection, because everything is so jam packed in here.
“I don’t have the heart to put it in boxes.”
It is this personal connection and the great responsibility with which Mrs Ross cares for her collection that helps to make it so unique.