Among other things (like working on the copy edited MS of my latest book), I have been sorting through the photos and letters that record bits and pieces of my father’s war history.
That’s the First World War, not the second. Not that they called it that…they had no idea they were fighting for nothing, rather than gloriously battling “the war to end all wars” as they were told. The photo of him was taken in France. He was about 27 y.o.
Here’s an extract, written to his sister in W.A. in pencil on a tiny piece of paper now brown with age: “I can tell you it is a great consolation to one and all of us when we get good news from home…Of course I don’t get letters very regular on account of so much shifting about…” He goes on to mention two friends from the wheatbelt of Western Australia where he owned a farm with his brother. He writes, “Reggie Parker was lucky getting out with a wound; I only wish Alec Waterhouse and all the other lads were as lucky…”
The Alec he mentions was English-born. They had both embarked with the Australian forces in January 1916, but Alec went missing, believed killed, at Pozieres in France in August of that same year.
But more than a year or so later, having been a German PoW, and having recovered from a chest wound, Alec escaped — walked through enemy lines and turned up in Holland… Back in England he sent a message to his mother, who still lived in Kent:
A happy story? Yes — and no. I believe Alec found it hard to deal with life after returning to Australia.