Comment: The ANZAC Legacy

I spent a couple of hours at my kids school yesterday for their Anzac day assembly, followed by a morning tea hosted by the school leaders. It was good to have the young kids take an interest in how modern day life in the Army is compared to those conditions endured by the original Anzacs.
I have once again been selected to carry the Aust flag for the street parade which has my youngest is proudly telling all her classmates LOL

Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.

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Reply By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 19:42

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 19:42
For Barry F

Beneath the Faded Word
By Peter Thomas, Mt Martha, Vic.

It sat out in the shearing shed for 30 years or more,
With cobwebs, dust and binder twine, and sheep dung on the floor.
An old and rusted Lockwood kept its secrets from my eyes,

A cabin trunk of leather, there since 1945.
I asked my dad, who owned it and what we kept it for,
He replied, “It’s Uncle Basil’s, that he brought back from the war.
So don’t you bloody touch it, or I’ll tan your bloody hide!”
But that only made me more intrigued to see what was inside.
I wondered at its mysteries and the secrets that it hid,
Beneath the faded word “Tobruk” stencilled on the lid.

Near Wilcannia, where only hardy cattlemen will go,
Uncle Basil had a station, Baden Park, near Ivanhoe.
A strong and gentle man, who once rode the Birdsville Track
Just to prove he wasn’t hampered by the shrapnel in his back.

So I stood alone and weighed it up; which would I decide,
Should I leave the memories undisturbed, or take a look inside?
I knew I had to take a look to see what it’d hold.
Medals? Spoils from the war – silver, jewels or gold?

The old man went off fishin’ of a Sunday with Bob Gray,
Sp if I was gonna do it – that would have to be the day.
I started out determined – I was done by ten past two.
With half a broken hacksaw blade, I cut the padlock through,
But even as I opened it, the truth was plain and clear,
The old trunk held no gold or jewels, there was no treasure here .
A pile of letters tied with string, an old moth eaten flag,
A rusty metal helmet and mouldy webbing bag,
A cup made from a jam tin, an emu feathered hat,
And a newspaper clipping with the title “Desert Rat”,
Some photos of the pyramids – a rusty bayonet,
An IOU – Jack Carmody – two quid ( a two-up bet).

I folded out a faded map as the day began to wane,
Foreign places like Benghazi, Tobruk, El Alamein.
Then I came upon a satchel and a little leather book
And a photo of some young blokes – so I took a closer look.
It was 20 young recruits, their faces tanned and worn
From places like Cohuna, Moama and Bamawm.
Farmers, shearers, stockmen off to fight a noble war,
For the empire in a foreign land they’d never seen before.
And scrawled across the bottom, in writing rough and coarse,
Twenty names below the words, the Echuca Boys – Light Horse.

I turned the photo over, and there upon the back
Were words that sent a chill through me, and made my mouth go slack.
A solemn list of 20 – the fate of each the same.
Every one but Uncle Basil had a date beside their name,
Some said April ’43, some said June /July.
A record from our history, the date that each had died.
I turned back to the photo and looked in every face,
And written over each one was a month, a year, a place.
A grinning, sun-bronzed soldier’s face, each now with a name
Like November 1943 – the words El Alamein.

I wonder did they think, as they sailed across the foam,
That amongst them only one – Uncle Basil – would come home?
Recorded in that little book – I remember to this day –
A record of their actions and how each had passed away,

A mortar shell out on patrol; a sniper in the night;
A landmine took one’s legs off – he died before first light.
The death of each was brutal, the reality was stark.
Forty pages written there, I finished just on dark.

I slowly closed that record of the men who kept us free
And turned to see my father, standing silently.
He didn’t do his block as I expected that he would,
He just said, “Come on pack it up, I reckon that we should.”
So with loving care we packed away the treasures from the past,
When I came upon the photograph – it was put aside ‘till last –
And with new respect and love, I recorded there his fate.
Next to Uncle Basil I wrote April ’68.
Yeah, Dad and I we packed it up and put it back again
And wrapped it in a bit of tarp, to keep it from the rain.
We never spoke about it or discussed what I had read.
I reckon that was his way, to respect those men long dead.

There’s a statue of a digger in most every country town,
And a list of names of locals, who fought with great renown.
And now, when I go by, I remember what I read,
Sitting on the floor out there, in our old shearing shed.
And I think of Uncle Gordon, lost somewhere on Ambon,
Uncle Jack on the Kokoda and, in England, Uncle John.
I remember still that photo, with sadness and remorse,
That mob of grinning faces, the Echuca Boys – Light Horse.
In a cemetery near Ivanhoe lies a bloke who’s left his mark,
Basil Thomas, of Echuca, Tobruk and Baden park.


The Anzac on the Wall

I wandered thru a country town 'cos I had time to spare,
And went into an antique shop to see what was in there.
Old Bikes and pumps and kero lamps, but hidden by it all,
A photo of a soldier boy - an Anzac on the Wall.

"The Anzac have a name?" I asked. The old man answered "No,.
The ones who could have told me mate, have passed on long ago.
The old man kept on talking and, according to his tale,
The photo was unwanted junk bought from a clearance sale.

"I asked around," the old man said, "but no one knows his face,
He's been on that wall twenty years, deserves a better place.
For some one must have loved him so, it seems a shame somehow."
I nodded in agreement and then said, "I'll take him now."

My nameless digger's photo, well it was a sorry sight
A cracked glass pane and a broken frame - I had to make it right
To prise the photo from its frame I took care just in case,
"Cause only sticky paper held the cardboard back in place.

I peeled away the faded screed and much to my surprise,
Two letters and a telegram appeared before my eyes
The first reveals my Anzac's name, and regiment of course
John Mathew Francis Stuart - of Australia's own Light Horse.

This letter written from the front, my interest now was keen
This note was dated August seventh 1917
"Dear Mum, I'm at Khalasa Springs not far from the Red Sea
They say it's in the Bible - looks like Billabong to me.

"My Kathy wrote I'm in her prayers she's still my bride to be
I just cant wait to see you both you're all the world to me
And Mum you'll soon meet Bluey, last month they shipped him out
I told him to call on you when he's up and about."

"That bluey is a larrikin, and we all thought it funny
He lobbed a Turkish hand grenade into the Co's dunny.
I told you how he dragged me wounded in from no man's land
He stopped the bleeding closed the wound with only his bare hand."

"Then he copped it at the front from some stray shrapnel blast
It was my turn to drag him in and I thought he wouldn't last
He woke up in hospital, and nearly lost his mind
Cause out there on the battlefield he'd left one leg behind."

"He's been in a bad way mum, he knows he'll ride no more
Like me he loves a horse's back he was a champ before.
So Please Mum can you take him in, he's been like my brother
Raised in a Queensland orphanage he' s never known a mother."

But Struth, I miss Australia mum, and in my mind each day
I am a mountain cattleman on high plains far away
I'm mustering white-faced cattle, with no camel's hump in sight
And I waltz my Matilda by a campfire every night

I wonder who rides Billy, I heard the pub burnt down
I'll always love you and please say hooroo to all in town".
The second letter I could see was in a lady's hand
An answer to her soldier son there in a foreign land

Her copperplate was perfect, the pages neat and clean
It bore the date November 3rd 1917.
"T'was hard enough to lose your Dad, without you at the war
I'd hoped you would be home by now - each day I miss you more"

"Your Kathy calls around a lot since you have been away
To share with me her hopes and dreams about your wedding day
And Bluey has arrived - and what a godsend he has been
We talked and laughed for days about the things you've done and seen"

"He really is a comfort, and works hard around the farm,
I read the same hope in his eyes that you wont come to harm.
Mc Connell's kids rode Billy, but suddenly that changed
We had a violent lightning storm, and it was really strange."
"Last Wednesday just on midnight, not a single cloud in sight
It raged for several minutes, it gave us all a fright
It really spooked your Billy - and he screamed and bucked and reared
And then he rushed the sliprail fence, which by a foot he cleared"

"They brought him back next afternoon, but something's changed I fear
It's like the day you brought him home, for no one can get near
Remember when you caught him with his black and flowing mane?
Now Horse breakers fear the beast that only you can tame,"
"That's why we need you home son" - then the flow of ink went dry-
This letter was unfinished, and I couldn't work out why.
Until I started reading the letter number three
A yellow telegram delivered news of tragedy
Her son killed in action - oh - what pain that must have been
The Same date as her letter - 3rd November 17
This letter which was never sent, became then one of three
She sealed behind the photo's face - the face she longed to see.

And John's home town's old timers -children when he went to war
Would say no greater cattleman had left the town before.
They knew his widowed mother well - and with respect did tell
How when she lost her only boy she lost her mind as well.
She could not face the awful truth, to strangers she would speak
"My Johnny's at the war you know , he's coming home next week."
They all remembered Bluey he stayed on to the end
A younger man with wooden leg became her closest friend

And he would go and find her when she wandered old and weak
And always softly say "yes dear - John will be home next week."
Then when she died Bluey moved on, to Queensland some did say
I tried to find out where he went, but dont know to this day
And Kathy never wed - a lonely spinster some found odd
She wouldn't set foot in a church - she'd turned her back on God
John's mother left no will I learned on my detective trail
This explains my photo's journey, that clearance sale
So I continued digging cause I wanted to know more
I found John's name with thousands in the records of the war
His last ride proved his courage - a ride you will acclaim
The Light Horse Charge at Beersheba of everlasting fame

That last day in October back in 1917
At 4pm our brave boys fell - that sad fact I did glean
That's when John's life was sacrificed, the record's crystal clear
But 4pm in Beersheba is midnight over here.......
So as John's gallant sprit rose to cross the great divide
Were lightning bolts back home a signal from the other side?
Is that why Billy bolted and went racing as in pain?
Because he'd never feel his master on his back again?

Was it coincidental? same time - same day - same date?
Some proof of numerology, or just a quirk of fate?
I think it's more than that, you know, as I've heard wiser men,
Acknowledge there are many things that go beyond our ken

Where craggy peaks guard secrets neath dark skies torn asunder
Where hoofbeats are companions to the rolling waves of thunder
Where lightning cracks like 303's and ricochets again
Where howling moaning gusts of wind sound just like dying men
Some Mountain cattlemen have sworn on lonely alpine track
They've glimpsed a huge black stallion - Light Horseman on his back.

Yes Sceptics say, it's swirling clouds just forming apparitions
Oh no, my friend you cant dismiss all this as superstition
The desert of Beersheba - or windswept Aussie range
John Stuart rides forever there - Now I dont find that strange.
Now some gaze at this photo, and they often question me
And I tell them a small white lie, and say he's family.
"You must be proud of him." they say - I tell them, one and all,
That's why he takes the pride of place - my Anzac on the Wall.


He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the RSL Club,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his mates;
They were heroes, every one.

And 'tho sometimes to his neighbours
His tales became a joke,
All his mates listened quietly
For they knew whereof he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
For ol' Bob has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer
For a soldier died today.

He won't be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won't note his passing,
'tho a Soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country
And offers up his life?

The politician's stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary soldier,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It's so easy to forget them,
For it is so many times,
That our Bobs and Jims
Went to battle, but we still pine.

It was not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand,

Or would you want a Soldier,
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Soldier,
Who would fight until the end?

He was just a common Soldier,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his like again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honour
While he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
in the paper that might say:

~author unknown~
Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.

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Follow Up By: Jarse - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:04

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:04
That last one, in particular, was pretty awesome.
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Reply By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 19:50

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 19:50
I have also started a Blog on Military Poems

Fred G has also got a great Blog for Anzac Day posted as well.

Cheers Kev

Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.

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Follow Up By: Member - barry F (NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:09

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:09
Thank you Kev for doing that putting those up. I think they are worthy of an annual re-appearance as they tell in such a touching manner of the many that gave so much.
Let us not forget the ultimate sacrifice that those have paid in serving our country and also those that have & continue to serve and have come home to tell of their survival from the horrors of war & conflict.
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Reply By: Fred G NSW - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:17

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:17
Image Could Not Be Found
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Follow Up By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:37

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:37
G'Day Fred,

A bit of info for everyone -

Rosemary is also traditionally worn on ANZAC Day, and sometimes on Remembrance Day. Rosemary has particular significance for Australians as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula. Since ancient times, this aromatic herb has been believed to have properties to improve the memory.

Cheers Kev
Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.

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Reply By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:39

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 at 20:39
I would like to share this poem with you all, written by Australian Author David McLintock.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick with his Donkey called Duffy.

John was from my hometown of South Shields, He became an Aussie Legend on the Battlefields of Gallipoli Serving with "Duffy" and the 3rd Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Corps. John was KIA on the 19th May 1915, aged 22.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick

Green grass,
beautiful trees,
the morning sun warms my face
but a cold shiver
runs up and down my spine.
Is it the cool Canberra breeze
as I sit under the statue
and think of a man
giving his all
85 years before?
Such unselfishness
will I ever know?
Could I walk into hell
and hold my head high?
Could I taste the fear
yet still take that next step?
My family and loved ones
will I ever see them again?
Will they know I’m thinking of them
every single moment,
as my four legged friend
and I trudge up
this hill, yet again?
Will we survive
this horrible war?
Such misery and death
I could never have thought,
The man on the donkey
is who most know me as,
Surely a fool to
do what he does,
But another life
now, I have just saved.
I cannot sit back
and just let them die.
Explosions all around me,
Please God, guide me true,
let me save these brave lads,
Let me see tomorrows dawn.
And please God,
protect my donkey.
I guess there’s not much chance
of us coming through this mess.
Do you think they will
ever remember us
when this madness is over?
Will they know of the pain
and the misery,
the stench and the fear?
Will they remember the hope
we are giving to the
diggers as they fall,
Knowing as they lay there
that we will always try
and bring them back safe.
Come on my four legged mate,
just up this gully,
Be brave my friend
and keep your head down.
It’s warmer now
as the sun climbs higher,
A bronze shadow
casts over me,
Is the memory enough?
Is your soul at rest
or still in the trenches
with your grey haired friend?
For a little while
I was with you both,
I hope this is enough…

David McLintock © 2000
Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.

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Reply By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012 at 07:48

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012 at 07:48
Royal Engineers - "Hands on lift up" poem.

Hands on lift up this handle and walk right on inside,
Navy? Army? Air Force? Follow my father, a sense of Pride.
Hands on lift up this pen and sign away your life,
The queens shilling was mine to spend, I think I bought a knife,

Hands on lift up my father’s hand, he shook mine at the door,
You’re a sapper now go do ya best just like ya father before,
Hands on lift up this kit bag and climb aboard this train,
Knowing that from this day forth my life wont be the same,

Hands on lift up this Beret with cap badge on the side,
Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense; a growing sense of pride,
Hands on lift up this stable belt with rings of red and blue,
Pass it round my waist, now part of a band with just a few,

Hands on lift up this sand bag and with it build a wall,
Trust me I’m and Engineer there’s no way its gonna fall,
Hands on lift up this shovel and with it dig hole,
Mexe or 3 men battle trench we move earth like a mole,

Hands on lift up this Turfor jack and fix it to the ground,
And with it, pull things, lift things, moving everything all around,
Hands on lift up this bar mine and lay it in the ground,
Knowing that some Engineer with prod here till it’s found,

Hands on lift up this shrike; and push the buttons fast
The bridge goes boom the ground it shakes the moment didn’t last,
Hands on lift up this problem and think of a way round,
Improvise, adapt and overcome the best way I have found,

Hands on lift up this Bangalore and blow right through this fence,
A safe path for our lads to make the enemy all past tense,
Hands on lift up this detonator and crimp in the right place,
Then stick up a nostril and blow up a pigs face,

Hands on lift up this parachute and pack it tight n’that,
P-company completed – no longer a crap hat,
Hands on lift up this body and regain on this rope,
Commando tests walk 30 miles, Green Beret if I cope,

Hands on lift up this scuba gear; I’m welding under water,
Were engineers; working anywhere, if you didn’t know you oughta,
Hands on lift up this Red Cross grain and hand it to a child,
Stick this luminous pole in the ground, now this bridge is defiled,

Hands on lift up this massive bomb; defuse it if I can,
I’m 33, yes I’m EOD among the bravest among all man,
Hands on lift up pint glass, filled up with spirits and piss,
Happy days in Squadron bars each one of us will miss,

Hands on lift up a comrade I’m with you “Ubique”,
We’re brothers in arms, yes oppo’s, right until our dying day,
Hands on lift up this Bailey Bridge, oh this is just the gear,
bleep wet through but happy; always a Royal Engineer.

© Andrew Richard Harland 2012

Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.

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