ANZAC Day – 25 April, 1915.
Yesterday was a holiday in Australia to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli in Turkey.
For many it is a day to attend memorial services at shrines and cenotaphs and reflect on the sacrifices of all service personnel and honour family members and friends who have served in the armed forces. For many others the 25 April is just a holiday and opportunity to party and booze up.
The 25th April was also my late father’s birthday. He was born on the first anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, so I guess, that in my youth, Anzac Day was more about being proud that my father had this birthdate.
The last couple of days I have been reflecting on what my true feelings about participation in War are and about all service personnel being labelled heroes and brave. I have been hearing through the media various people saying about their relatives (who served in the World Wars), “they just didn’t talk about their experiences”. The late Max Pye, my grandfather’s cousin, who spoke to me for hours about his memories of so many relatives, when it came to his experiences as a young soldier during the bombing of Darwin said, “I can’t talk about that”, with some emotion. Watching a TV documentary where a group of elderly US servicemen were openly talking about their experiences during D-Day landings on Normandy beaches, one veteran said, “We are not heroes, we’re just survivors”. Their pain has not been healed.
I now understand, that the experiences of bloody War is such an intense emotional experience that they are left without the words to explain the extremes of emotions felt. Emotions still unprocessed to this day – their fears; their loss of sense of self; their belief patterns shattered. But for the lucky ones, they gained a sense of ‘mate-ship'; that sense of security in knowing that there were others who “had your back” and were fighting with you, helping you to survive, who knew what you were going through and during breaks in the fighting, cheering you up and being a larrakin and a mate.
In my family tree there are a couple of veterans of WW2 who found solace in drink on their return to Australia. They did not marry, not wanting to burden a wife with their troubles. The losses from War are not just the deaths of men on the battlefield, but includes the death of the lives (their hopes, dream and ability to cope) of the returning soldiers.
So after ANZAC Day I pray for the deep emotional healing of those men and women affected by war. May they find peace.
In Memory Of Those Who Served (from my family tree).
Those who died in conflicts
Samuel Isaac Baker, Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery
Charles Burns, Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own)
William Pye, Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment)
Thomas Vincent Pye, AIF 58th Bn.
Alfred Pye (Illness) 30th Bn AIF.
Charles B Gorman, AIF 1st Bn.
Patrick Thomas Leddin, AIF 58th Bn.
William Sephton, Lancashire fusiliers.
Thomas Vincent McMullin (AIF 2/48th – major North African battle of El Alamein)
Harry Clifford (same battle as above – died 24/10/1942) 2/18th
Herbert Wheat Cooper, Coldstream guards, 5th Bn
Sgt Edward Roy Cooper RAF 75 Squadron
P/O John Downing Pye RAAF 77 Squadron
Major Henry Pye, 7th Battalion
Kenneth James Whadcoat RAF 217 Sqdn
Gilbert Firth Pate RAAF 467 Squadron
Robert Spolding. Malaya.
Patrick Leddin – Korea.
POWs Thomas Joseph Pye (4 years a POW in Germany’s Stalag VII),
Leo Thomas Pye (3 years POW in Austria)
William George Pye (3years POW – unknown where).
Sidney Charles Waltho in Burma – he died.
George John Downing Sharpe was a POW in Malaya.