He stood there barely able to stand,
That rifle grip formed in his hand,
He was doing what he’d always done,
From the rising to the setting sun.
He had fought yet another long day,
His role to wait, to lie, and to stay,
When his minute had finally come,
He gave what he had, it all in sum.
He is our ANZAC, our proud tradition,
He obeyed his country on a deadly mission,
For us we can never repay that debt,
Long shall we say, “Lest we forget.”
READING what my grandfather had experienced in World War II, having imagined what he really must have experienced, with talk of kills and burying their dead, and lying in wet clothes for days, and enduring the associated health issues – these to say but a few – I can hardly believe what our forebears suffered for King and country. Thank you, Pop.
For what they suffered, the slain and the returned, we, as a culture, are continuing to grapple with; though this is no anti-war treatise.
It is interesting, and hardly surprising, that recent behavioural science is confirming what we already know; that those who returned could not discuss the atrocities they’d seen. They locked them away and tried to forget them. But what they couldn’t forget they could neither repress. A great deal of emotional anguish returned with the returned. Their minds had been tortured.
I heard one old digger tell his grandson (which is recorded in the book he wrote) that, as a prisoner of war he suffered less than those who had inflicted significant suffering. These were men, normal men, not warriors, in many cases. They went off to fight in a war when that was the thing you did. My other grandfather enlisted in World War I underage! It was common practice. It was how you staked a claim on life. Today’s youngsters are busy studying and building careers.
Our Anzacs went to fight in wars in foreign lands because that was their predominant option. Having chosen to enlist, to train, to don the uniform and bear the weapon, they must have been affronted by their first and subsequent experiences of engagement with the enemy. They must have faced fears we never have, like, “What have I gone and gotten myself into?” and “God, help me!”
Their courage, inspiring. Their mateship, legendary. Their sacrifice, enduring. Their endurance, unforgettable. Lest we forget.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.