Ronnie Worth's foraging on a property near Widgee turned up a piece of Gympie's wartime past.
Ronnie Worth's foraging on a property near Widgee turned up a piece of Gympie's wartime past. Scott Kovacevic

Widgee metal hunter digs up piece of Gympie war history

ARMED with a metal detector and hope, Ronnie Worth figured to strike his luck with an old coin or two.

He turned up a part of the region's war history instead.

Private Robert Kerridge is thought to be the first Gympie man killed in World War I, and his service has been thrust back into the spotlight thanks to a historic medallion he once owned and now uncovered by the metal hunter.

And along with the medal, he has now dug up some pieces of the soldier's past with the help of historians and the Kerridge clan.

"The family story is that he got shot the first time, the diary he had on him saved his life, he then returned back to the war and that was when he got killed,” Mr Worth said.

DIGGER: A medal belonging to Private Robert Kerridge, believed to be the first Gympie Anzac killed in World War I, was uncovered by a metal hunter at a Widgee property.
DIGGER: A medal belonging to Private Robert Kerridge, believed to be the first Gympie Anzac killed in World War I, was uncovered by a metal hunter at a Widgee property. Virtual War Memorial Australia

The Widgee resident has been digging into the Anzac's past since he found the relic.

"As soon as I figured out what it was, I did a bit of research and figured out who it was,” Mr Worth said.

Born at Howard in 1899 to John Kerridge and Sarah Ann Steadman, Pte Kerridge lived at Veteran Rd and worked as a teamster at a timber mill until his enlistment on November 23 1914.

He embarked from Brisbane on the HMAT A48 Seang Bee almost four months later on February 13, 1915.

Pte Robert Kerridge's medal.
Pte Robert Kerridge's medal. Scott Kovacevic

Less than three months after that, on May 3, 1915, he was killed in action at Gallipoli.

Pte Kerridge is buried at the Lone Pine Memorial on Gallipoli Peninsula and his name is inscribed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Mr Worth said the medal was found next to coins from 1917-19, so "it was lost not long after it was returned to the family”.

Mr Worth said Pte Kerridge's brother Daniel died "not that long ago” and was buried at the Gympie cemetery.

Ronnie Worth.
Ronnie Worth. Scott Kovacevic

The family trail did not stop there, though.

Mr Worth said it was a bloodline he had encountered before, which added even more spice to his find.

"To find something local, and then find out the history ... and then to find out I went to school with one of his distant relatives.”

After speaking to surviving Kerridge family members he has donated the medallion to the Gympie Historical and Gold Mining Museum, where it will sit alongside its owner.

Mr Worth said finding the medallion was especially sweet given how frequently the property had been combed in the past.

"The guy who owned the land first laughed at me, he said it had been hit so many times by so many people,” he said.

Private Robert Kerridge, believed to be first Gympie ANZAC killed in World War I
Private Robert Kerridge, believed to be first Gympie ANZAC killed in World War I Gympie Family History Society

"I said 'it's funny you said that, because the guy down the road who gave me permission for the hall said the same thing and I found a florin'.

"He said go for it.”

His passion for "dirt fishing” started with a mate studying archaeology at university.

Mr Worth, who was studying social science, tagged along for about a year before getting "a cheap (metal detector) of my own”.

His interest started with coins and jewellery, eventually settling on historical finds.

Gympie Times


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