For my dad, who never wanted to go to war

Today is Anzac Day. My dad was nearly an Anzac. He was part of the 1st AIF, sent to reinforce the troops at Gallipoli. They landed first in Egypt, but by then, the withdrawal was decided upon and his unit was sent to France instead.

There, his job was to drive mule trains of munitions to the front. He was at the Battle of Ypres.

Whatever he saw, he never mentioned.

After the war, it was almost a year before he was home again, even though he was not regular army. There were no ships to bring back the non-wounded…

This photo I took at the War Memorial in King’s Park Western Australia. A couple of ravens are standing on the wall contemplating the names of two horrendous slaughter grounds for young men: Ypres and the Somme.
And we still haven’t learned a thing.


For my dad, who never wanted to go to war — 5 Comments

  1. My Grandfathers were luckily. Too young for the 1st World War and employed in vital industries during the second. One was a carpenter/builder the other a machinist on the assembly line of the mosquito bomber.

    My uncle though volunteered for Vietnam ( something he came to regret I think)and my father narrowly missed out on being drafted.

    In my late teens I got it in to my head to join the Royal Military College Duntroon, thankfully my dodgy knees won out over my wide eyed enthusiasm to die for my country.

    I raise a glass to your Dad.

  2. Scary, isn't it, the romanticism of the young…although my dad really didn't have a choice. There was no conscription, but a family with many boys had to send some off to war.

    My birthdate was in the very first lottery for 18 yr-old Australians to go to Vietnam. I wasn't old enough to vote, and had I been male… I've often wondered if the 8th Feb was drawn that year.

  3. As you say, we never learn. My dad was in WWII but he was a) training pilots in Rhodesia and then b) flying transport command, so not at the front.

  4. I think part of the romanticism is actually because those who return don't want to talk about what they experienced. To listen to my uncles, both of whom were in Darwin while it was under attack, you'd have thought it was all fun because that's all they told us about. It seemed as though it was all practical jokes and funny incidents and, of course, it wasn't. They were shot at, saw their mates injured or killed and were in constant fear of losing their own lives but they didn't want to think about that or share such harrowing experiences with us and their own children. So the next generation grows up in ignorance and repeats the same mistakes.

    I don't know what the answer is. We can hardly blame those who survived to come home for wanting to push what they experienced out of their minds and to spare their loved ones but, without that reality to learn from, the next generation has only the heroic and romanticised version of war as served up in the movies to go on. Add to that the eternal conviction of the young that they are invulnerable and that each generation keeps repeating the same mistakes becomes inevitable.

  5. That's an interesting take, Helen. I think there is a lot of normal male testosterone involved too — it is normal behaviour for young male mammals to be at their most aggressive, and risk-taking best, at the age when armies start recruiting.

    But you're right — not talking about the bad things afterwards just compounds the problem.

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