Each year, as April 25 nears, Australian, and I suspect NewZealand, media of all varieties tend to fill their pages and radio waves reminding us about ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day.
On this day in many countries, all Australians remember those who fought and fell to preserve the freedom of our country in all wars, but particularly World Wars I and 2. We often hear of many heroic stories of valour, of lives saved and lost, but we seldom hear of regular soldiers who have served and returned home to their ‘normal’ lives.
My grandfathers were two such men who fought in World War 1. Both my grandfathers returned from The Great War, however, my maternal grandfather (Nathan) was minus a leg and my paternal grandfather (Bill) had seen repatriation in London after he became a victim of chemical warfare – mustard gas.
When ANZAC forces landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, Grandfather Nat was there. Unfortunately he was not a great writer and I do not have any of his diaries. When World War was declared for the second time on September 3rd, 1939, he sat on the local Post Office steps and cried. Less than a year later, at only forty-six years of age, he passed away in August 1940. Well before I was even I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye.
Grandfather Bill, Dad’s father, at sixty-four years of age, died about a week after this photo was taken in 1952. It would appear that Bill was happier about being the subject of the photograph than his eldest grandson.
On August 5th, 1914, Bill became part of history while serving on with gun crew which fired the first Australian (and many sources believe the first allied) shot, from Fort Nepean at the mouth of Port Philip Bay. Within minutes of receiving news that War had been declared shots were fired across the bow of the German ship the “Phalz” as it attempted to escape from Port Phillip Bay. After being fired upon the captain turned the vessel turned around and sailed back to the Portsea where the crew was arrested.
Both my grandfathers died at what we now would call a young age. Was this partly due to their involvement in World War 1? How many other families have seen family members pass on at an early age leaving a partner to fend for themselves for many more years. Yes, I did get to know both my grandmothers!
My son is going to the Dawn Service this year. I would love to join him but it may have to wait a year.
I would love to have known my grandfathers, but I have only the memories which have been handed down to me. They may be gone but they are not forgotten.
ANZAC DAY, 2013
Lest We Forget