Sunday, April 27, 2008


Waking up at 3 am on ANZAC DAY watching him get ready for the ANZAC Day March had been a tradition going back as far as one could remember. The once a year suit, the searching for the impossibly large array of medals to be pinned onto the left breast pocket, the Pacific Star, the Africa Star and all the others representing battles, trials and tribulations long forgotten and in many cases never even heard of by most of us.

By 5am, we would be looking on, as he would be standing in the cold pre-dawn light exchanging muted greetings of other like dressed, once a year comrades. Occasionally a blustering laugh would be heard as some nearly forgotten story of the past was regaled in all its absurd glory. Just before dawn a solemn silence seem to overtake the clusters of people standing in barley visible groups who had formed as if by some secret order that only those who had served understood. As the night fell away and invariably in light rain, the prayers for the fallen would begin at the site of the places of remembrance at thousands of places across the Australia and the world.

Later that day, they would march in memory of their friends and people who often were only forgotten names but vividly remembered faces and places. By mid morning, rum and coffee was being shared and stories expounded amid great gales of laughter, which was our indication that it was time for some of us to head home a leave the old warriors to their tales. Sometime that evening he would return usually more than a little drunk, but we were already asleep.

As we got older we noticed the laughter was not as forthcoming as it was in the past. One night when I was older, I heard him arrive but it was a quiet homecoming. I got up and walked outside, turning on the lights.

I saw something then that had never been seen before in this rock of man. He had been sitting in the dark with tears rolling down his face, quietly I asked him what was wrong, for a long time he just sat there with his hand tousling my hair. Finally he shook and said in a wavering voice I had never heard before:

“There was a man whose name I cannot even remember. We were in the Alexandria Army Hospital in the Middle East, he was a soldier who had suffered horrific combat injuries but by far the worst was the shrapnel had ripped the lower part of his face and jaw clean from his body. He could not talk, and could not eat and must have known he was going to die far from his home. In constant pain, all we could do was try and keep him calm as we waited for him to die.

For over a week, expect for those miracles times he would lapse into unconsciousness, this poor bugger would thrash and moan. Every day I would be forced to restrain him by holding his arms to his sides. He would try and force my arms to the ground at the sides of the stretcher and I would hold him down day after day. I shouldn’t have but I did swear at him and curse him as we struggled.

The one day, during one of our struggles, he just stopped trying and passed away.

Later that day, the nurses came and cleaned the stretcher and sheets, as they moved the stretcher. We noticed a cardboard box. We opened it and it contained over a dozen unopened letters from his wife and family.

Apparently these letters had been following him around the battle field for many months and finally caught up with him in the hospital. Some over worked orderly must have placed them under his stretcher at some time before he had time to read them to the soldier.

All this time, I had fought, restrained and cursed this poor bugger, all he was ever was trying to do was reach the letters under his bed. To hear from his loved ones before he died.

We did open one of the letters you know; his wife had enclosed pictures of his baby son..

Jesus..boy..All the poor bastard wanted was to see his son and I stopped him!”

Disclosure..The above is a true story..The man carrying that burden for 60 years was my father.


Rob Baiton said...


This was a good read and forces us as Australians why Anzac Day must remain forever important to us as individuals and as a nation!

Time will pass as will the old diggers who have fought so valiantly for the freedoms and style of life we now hold so dear!

Lest we forget!

rimafauzi said...

wow, so sad. but your father couldn't have known.

so where have you been lately?

PaulRB Doha said...

So well this captures the spirit of ANZAC and one of the most moving pieces I have ever read. I can see it all, just a mate trying to help a mate. Where would we all be if it wasnt for men like your Father. Dawn Services at Kings Park and elsewhere were/are something every Australian should experience. Lest We Forget.

pjbali said...

I enjoyed this post immensely. Thank you for reminding me that I would probably not be sitting here now but for the likes of your Dad. My own father was on a Navy Corvette - luckily I suppose the war was nearly over by the time he was old enough to join up.


tere616 said...

Phew .. it must be sad for your dad. It must be painful for him carrying that burden for 60 years.

I think, all of us have to pay the respect by not put our world in hell again ..

Silverlines said...

Just managed to read this through peacefully.

Touching, and can't help not to sob.

oigal said...

Thanks All... I debated a long time if I should put this up..It has sort has become a generational burden now..every ANZAC Day (and at other times) I cannot help but think of my father but also that poor bugger who just wanted to see his baby son before he died so far from home.

Polar Bear said...

You put a lump in my throat that I cannot swallow. When man kills man to achieve political aims all is lost.