Tag Archives: army

Maitland Thomas Butler WWI – The Brother Who Missed The Boat.

The research road continues today as we meet up with Maitland Thomas Butler, Maud Butler’s older brother. I introduced you to Maud Butler in a previous post: Jack and Maud.

As you may recall, my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy served in France during WWI and a few months ago I set out to gain a better understanding of what he went through. A sense of moderate urgency was given to the project, because our son will be visiting Europe in a few months’ time on a school history excursion. They’ll be spending ANZAC Day at Villers Bretonneau and I wanted him to be fully informed about our family members who’d served. There were quite a few, especially Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French who was killed in action and he is also part of this project.

Jack Quealy WWI

Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy

My attention initially honed onto an entry in GG Uncle Jack’s service records, which showed he was wounded in action in France on the 28th August, 1916. No further details were given and naturally I wanted to know where he was. This seemed relatively simple at the time with all the resources of the World Wide Web at my fingertips.

However, working this out was a lot harder than I’d expected. The information captured in service records is very scant, and doesn’t include the more detailed information a researcher like myself desperately craves. I wanted to know exactly where he was. Find that X marks the spot imprinted the very spot where it happened. To my way of thinking, I also assumed he had to be injured in a battle, and I wanted to know more about that too, along with who he was with and finding tales from or about his mates. The old adage “somewhere in France” simply wasn’t enough. I had to know more. Not getting terribly far, I widened my search and soon found myself swimming well out to sea without a paddle. However, finally, all this research is starting to develop some perimeters, and is taking shape.

Maud Butler AWM Robert Fletcher

Maud Butler in uniform on board the Suevic 1915.

It was this wider search which introduced me to an entire cast of fascinating characters,  including  ship stowaway, Maud Butler, who I’ve already explored in previous posts. On 22nd December, 1915 she stowed away on board HMAT A26 Suevic dressed as a soldier as a desperate effort to get to  the front and serve as a nurse.  I’d hoped GG Uncle Jack had caught the same ship. However, as I’ve already explained, he’d already left on board the Aeneas two days before…another detail which wasn’t easy to come by via the route I used. Much to my disappointment, Maud and Jack weren’t even two ships passing in the night.

While Maud Butler’s story is gripping and also has a complexity which draws me in, I was going to put her to one side and continue my research into the troops themselves. However, not wanting to leave a stone unturned, I wanted to check out her brother’s service records. You never know. I thought he could also have a story to tell.

Indeed, when you read accounts of Maud’s “adventure”, her brother is almost pivotal to the story. Private Les Spriggs mentioned them both in a letter dated 25th January, 1916 from the Aerodrome Camp, Heliopolis, which was published on Wednesday 22 March 1916 in the Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette :

“…The first day out at sea there was a girl discovered on board dressed in a uniform. She was trying to get to Egypt to see her brother who was wounded in a hospital. She was put off on to a passing steamer[1].

Maud’s brother was also mentioned in a message in a bottle, which was thrown overboard from the Suevic on the way to the front. The following message was written by Mr. Ted Blakey, of Manly, to his mother and found off the Victorian coast.

“At sea, Saturday, December 25, 1915, 4 p.m. My dear Mum,—I am sending this note by bottle from the Victorian coast. I hope you will get this O.K. We have just finished our Christmas dinner—turkey and pork. Everyone on board is O.K. A girl was found on board dressed as a soldier; she was going to fight with her brother at Gallipoli, Oh, well, good-bye for the present.—I am, your loving son, Ted.[2]

Maud openly denied she was simply going to the front to see her brother. Rather, she spoke about her plans to serve as a nurse after her valiant attempts to sign up with the Red Cross and at Victoria Barracks failed due to inexperience. However, she mentions that her brother is at the front:

“It is not correct that I joined the ship just in sport, to see my brother who is at the front,” said Miss Maud Butler. “My object was to do what I could to help. I wanted to join the Red Cross, and I tried very hard to get accepted. When I failed I bought a khaki suit and stowed away…In fact, it was before my brother went away at all,” continued Miss Butler, who was seen yesterday at the rooms of the Young Women’s Christian Association, “that I wanted to go. He has been at the front for six months.[3]

However, as it turns out, Maud Butler’s brother, Maitland Thomas Butler, was nowhere near the front in December, 1915. While I can’t be sure of his exact whereabouts, I suspect he was living at home with Mum and Dad in Cessnock and working as a miner locally. Born 10th June, 1897 at Coen, Far North Queensland, he was only 18 years old at the time and underage. The legal enlistment age was 21 and men needed to be 19 years of age to go overseas. However, they could get parental consent.

Fast-forwarding to 11th April, 1917, Maitland Thomas Butler enlisted, putting up his age to 21 years one month and also incorrectly stated that “Weston NSW” was his place of birth. However, on 12th April he was “discharged underage” from the Sydney Showgrounds. The stated cause was “letter written by mother”. It looks like his mother had hotfooted it down to Sydney and submitted a statutory declaration stating that “my son Maitland Butler is only 18 years of age. He will be 19 years of age on the 10th June 1917.” It seems a bit rough that a letter from Mum could end the dreams of  a grown man. However, having had her young daughter try to flee overseas to the front, Mrs Rose Butler was clearly putting her foot down. Getting her own troops back in order. As a parent of teenagers myself, I have a great deal of empathy for Rose and Thomas Butler and I can’t help sensing the same iron will and determination in the mother, which was found in the kids.

However, just like sister Maud who didn’t give up on her first attempt and boarded a second troopship in uniform, Maitland Butler didn’t give up on his dream of getting to the front either. On 19th September, 1917 he enlisted again. This time he was more inventive and signed up as “Frank Emerson” at West Maitland. On 19th December, 1917 he embarked for the front onboard A38 Ulysses from Sydney and disembarked on the 13th February, 1918 at Southampton, England.  On 7th July, 1918 he was taken on strength in France by the 2nd Battalion from the 26th reinforcements.

During his time with the 2nd Battalion, Maitland participated in the Allies’ own offensive, launched to the east of Amiens on 8 August 1918. This advance by British and Empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as “the black day of the German Army in this war”. In Mid-September they fought around Menin Road, Belgium which formed part of the wider Third Battle of Ypres. Maitland Butler was later gassed on the 25th September, 1918 rejoining his company on 1st October, 1918. I will expand on his war service at a later date.

Up until this point, you could probably say that Maitland Butler’s service record, while not without its moments, fell inside what you could call the range of “normal soldier behaviour” (a variation on what the kids’ high school refers to as “normal teenage behaviour”). However, not unlike his famous sister and her voyage leaving Australia, Maitland Butler landed in hot water coming home.

ss_euripides_lsOn 6th September, 1919 Maitland Butler embarked for Sydney onboard the Euripides. All went well until he went on shore leave in Durban,  South Africa and failed to return at the end of shore leave on the 1st October. A day later, he was reported AWOL when his ship sailed for Australia at 1318. Almost two weeks later, on 13th October, 1919 he reported to the AIF Office and was charged with:

Charge 1. Neglected to obey troopship orders in that he was not on board HT Euripides at 1318 2.10.19 when she sailed for Australia.

2.AWL from 2200 1.10.19 to 1130 13.10.19 to 1130 13.10.19

He was awarded 168 hours detention & forfeit 28 days pay AA.46.2d by Lt Beveridge in Durban. However, he escaped from escort while being taken to civil gaol for safe custody 1200 and was captured a day later and charged with gambling by the civil police. 12th November, 1919 he embarked in Arrest on S.S. “Chepatow Castle” for Cape Town and four days later he disembaked ex CHEPSTOW CASTLE CAPETOWN & reported to the AIF Depot. Finally, on 20th November, 1919 Maitland Butler embarked onboard HT Nestor for continuation of voyage to Australia & demobilisation.

He was home at last.

After touching base with Maud and Maitland Butler to some extent while out on Research Road, I couldn’t help but parallel their contrasting experiences of travelling to and from the front. Maud went to very great lengths to stowaway on board HMAT 26 Suevic masquerading as a man in soldier’s uniform. Then, there’s her older brother, Maitland Butler, going to equally great lengths to avoid getting onto his ship in Durban and coming home. Either way, the two of them no doubt gave their parents some hefty headaches and they could’ve used a Bex and a good lie down. Or, at the very least, a very strong cup of tea.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

References

[1] Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette (NSW : 1900 – 1928), Wednesday 22 March 1916, page 2

[2] Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), Saturday 22 January 1916, page 2

[3] Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 – 1918), Wednesday 29 December 1915, page 5

Services records Maitland Thomas Butler.

Wikipaedia.

WWI…Maud Butler & the Troopship Suevic (Continued)

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, the saga of Maud Butler continues.

It’s hardly surprising that the discovery of Maud Butler, a young woman masquerading as a soldier on board the troopship Suevic, attracted a lot of attention. As soon as the troops on board got wind of it, she was snapped by the likes of 500 cameras and also they passed around the hat raising £600 as a “dowry” to get her home. She was mentioned in soldiers’ diaries and a couple even messages in bottles, which were hoisted overboard before they left Australian waters. Newspapers all round the country shared her story and also used her determination to get to the front, to rally men to enlist. Shame those wretched shirkers into enlisting and doing their bit. Not unsurprisingly, Maud Butler’s appearance in a man’s uniform, also raised questions about the role of women and affronted conventions of the time. However, while her actions were unconventional, to many Maud became a sort of hero.

As I said, Maud’s presence on board the Suevic attracted additional media attention to that particular voyage and details about conditions on board were captured, which (from what I can glean) often went unreported. These everyday details don’t matter much when you have thousands of men to tell the story. However, over 100 years later, their voices have fallen silent. Perhaps, it’s particularly important for those of us who had family who served to know their journey from start to finish, and to not just read the headlines. Know about the battlefield. I, for one, needed to have some understanding of what they went through. After all, I’ve always taken this quote from Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird  to heart, adapting it to my own sense of walking in someone’s shoes:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee.

As it turns out, the troops on board the Suevic produced their own on board newspaper called The Sports Company’s Gazette. It was edited by Lieutenant Webbe, a Hansard Reporter and  Lieutenant Wells and Private Tom Dawson were associate-editors. The Art Editor was Private C. V. Walters, who’d worked as a process engraver for The Sun newspaper before going into camp[1].

According to Elise Edmonds, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery at the Mitchell Library, such newspapers weren’t uncommon.:

“Articles published highlight the day to day cares and routines of the ordinary serviceman. There is much poetry – sentimental verse, along with examples of black humour, prose, photographs and drawings. Soldier illustrations often consisted of caricatures of military culture, enemy forces, or the political situation. All the articles and artwork were created whilst in trenches, at military bases and on the troopships – either heading to war, or on the way home in 1918 and 1919. Writing, illustrating and editing these publications was a good way to reduce boredom or the tension of military life.[2]

Of course, Maud Butler rated more than a passing mention in The Sports Company’s Gazette. It reads:

‘Knowing what we do, we should all be proud that Australia can breed girls heroic enough to brave the dangers of a troopship, and the terrors of war for their country’s weal. There should still be plenty of men, however, and Miss ___ goes back to Sydney with our best wishes. May she marry a man worthy of her. We give her the following as our dowry: —

A plucky young lady named Maud.

Who wished to go fighting abroad:

One day sailed away In Khaki array

And said ‘Who will think me a fraud ?’

An eagle-eyed captain we had

Who soon made poor Maudie feel sad.

He made her blush red

When next day he said

‘I think you’re a lady, me lad.’

And Maudie’s adventure was o’er;

She’s way back in Sydney once more;

She shed a few tears;

We gave her three cheers.

And wished her good things in galore[3].

The following appeared in The Sun:

GIRL ON THE TRANSPORT HUMOR AND GOOD VERSE

The newspaper Industry flourishes at sea these days. Every troopship that rides the waves produces a sheet which contains more or less newsy stuff, and it is extraordinary how the man with the touch of humor is discovered. The last paper to see the light has just come to hand. It was well edited, and handled a variety of copy capably. It recorded in quite a dignified manner the disappearance of Private H. H. Brown, of the 18th Battalion, who, it was supposed had fallen overboard at night….

The humorist showed up in a report of a concert at which he said the absence of ladies in the audience was greatly deplored, the only lady passenger having found it necessary to disembark before they said good-bye to Australia. The reference, of course, was to the adventure of Maud Butler, the little Kurri Kurri girl. How Maud was discovered is thus expressed:— A muster parade had been called, and the adjutant was gently floating round the ship looking for shirkers. Presently his eagle eye glared on a young private, and he asked, “Well, my lad, why aren’t you parading with your unit?” The lad stammered, and replied, “Sir, I cannot find my unit.” “Probably not,” said the adjutant, whose searching glare had disclosed the fact that the offender’s trilbies were not encased in service boots, while the jacket was minus battalion numbers. After a back view he said in his dry and official manner, “You are a stowaway, and it will be necessary for you to be examined by the medical officer.” Exit soldier and adjutant. It was afterwards announced that the soldier was a dear little girl. The wireless got to work, and Maud was sent by to Melbourne. She was still dressed in khaki, but carried in addition a cash belt containing £23, generously sub scribed by all on board, so that on her arrival in Melbourne she could secure the necessary raiment to enable her to resume her proper station in life. What everyone wants to know, the story concludes, Is why the adjutant objects to that delightful song entitled Come Into the Garden, Maud. The theme Is then taken up by the Limerick man, who under the title Maud of the Mercantile Marine writes: —

A certain young lady named Maud

Secreted herself on ship board.

The dear little duck

Had plenty of pluck,

But the venture turned but quite a fraud.

She climbed up a rope in the dark,

The adventurous, giddy, young spark;

But the adjutant wise

Had piercing brown eyes,

And so put an end to her lark.

When discovered she

Shed a small tear,

Which proves she’s a woman, the dear!

Then the ____came

Her person to claim,

So exit sweet Boadicea.

The sheet had its sporting page conducted by “Bill” Corbett’s understudy, and it also dealt with the ceremony associated with crossing the line, as well as getting off a great many good-natured hits at the expense of officers and men alike. The sheet was edited by Lieutenant Webbe. Lieutenant Wells and Private Tom Dawson were associate-editors, and Private C. V. Walters, who before he went into camp was a member of the Sun process engraving staff was the art editor. ‘

A touching poem  At Sunset by George A. Aldworth, of the 20th Battalion. Also appeared in the Suevic’s  Sports Company’s Gazette. However, I felt George warranted his own post so stay tuned.

Do you have any connection to Maud Butler or someone who served onboard the Suevic? Or, perhaps your loved one also served in WWI? If so, please leave details and links in the comments below.  

If you are interested in Maud Butler’s story, here’s a couple of posts of interest.

There’s  Maud Butler: Teenage Stowaway – Victoria Haskins a history professor at the University of Newcastle.

Message In A Bottle Hunter- Maud Butler

A children’s book https://www.cessnockadvertiser.com.au/story/5014176/book-pays-tribute-to-mauds-fighting-spirit/ has also been written and I’m about to place my order. Hunter historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher and illustrator Paul Durell have brought Maud’s extraordinary story to life in the new book “You Can’t Fight, You’re a Girl!”

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy served in France, but my husband Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French was Killed in Action in France. We also have quite a few other family members who have served. Our son will be visiting the battlefields of France as part of a history tour with his school next year and will be spending ANZAC Day at Villers-Bretonneux and I wanted him to have some idea of what happened before he left.

After all, we talk about “Lest we forget”, but a hundred years later, we don’t remember. We don’t know. Of course, we can’t know everything about the past, but for me it’s not only important from a point of respect and gratitude. It’s also helpful to know what these people went through and how they handled this dreadful period in history provides valuable life lessons, which are just as relevant and needed today.

I also needed to know what it was really like for them to be there. Not from us imposing our own interpretations over the top. Rather, I needed to hear their stories directly through their own voices. Despite studying Australian History at Honours level at university and being gripped by Australian and family history most of my life, what they told me was quite different and much more complex than I expected. They needed to be heard.

Stay tuned.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

[1] Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Saturday 22 July 1916, page 1

 

[2] https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/blogs/first-world-war-troopship-and-unit-newspapers

[3] Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Saturday 22 July 1916, page 1

 

ANZAC Day 25th April, 2019.

This morning, our son and I attended the local ANZAC Day march and commemoration service. Indeed, as a Scout, our son was in the march and even carried the Australian flag. I must apologize that the photo is a little historic, but it can be difficult to get teenagers to comply. I’m sure you understand.

ANZAC Day is an incredibly deep and reflective day for us on a personal level. Geoff has family who served in just about every conflict and his Great Uncle, Robert Ralph French, was killed in Action in France. That was his grandmother’s much loved brother and since he had no children of his own, we’ve embraced him and our children will carry his memory forward.

DSC_3647.JPG

In addition to thinking about these sacrifices, today I also reflected on the format of the commemoration service and how it’s probably the last bastion of tradition in our ephemeral contemporary world. Even after all these years and long after the Australian national anthem was changed to Advance Australia Fair, we sing God Save the Queen on ANZAC Day instead. I don’t know how that went at other locations, but where we were, there weren’t too many singing along. Many didn’t know the words and I also wonder how many didn’t feel right singing it either. We’ve moved a long way forward as a nation since then both in terms of gaining independence from Britain, but also in acknowledging and embracing our Aboriginal heritage. That Australia wasn’t “terra nullus” after all.

The service also includes two traditional hymns: God Our Hope in Ages Past and Abide With Me. The only voice I could hear singing was the minister on the microphone. I sang along but there was silence all around me. I felt it would have been helpful to have a choir leading the singing or have groups practice these hymns beforehand. It sounds dreadful when no one is singing along, just like at a silent funeral.

DSC_3674

I feel this dog has earned the right be be an “Australian Digger”…slang for soldier.

I wonder how these traditions are going to go moving forward. Are they set in stone? Or, will future generations find a new means of expression?

Meanwhile, I made fresh ANZAC Biscuits when we got home and then watched a bit of the dawn service in Gallipoli and France. The ANZAC Biscuits have been an important part of my tradition and a way of expressing my gratitude. There’s something for me about pouring your emotions into food and sharing that with those you love.

I’ll leave you with this poem:

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872–1918)

Lest we forget.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Just thought I’d mention that Geoff ended up being called into work for several hours last night and hence he wasn’t at the march but watching the march on the TV at home.

Fighting War on A Different Front…Army Dentists WWII.

While it was all very well for our Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies to follow Britain’s lead and declare war on Germany on the 3rd September, 1939, the reality was that our troops were far from ready to go.

Indeed, it appears that our young men had stuck their tooth brushes where the sun don’t shine, and their teeth were just as black. Just to give you some idea of the full scale of the problem, in September 1939 in regional Victoria of 2,477 men examined, only 301 were classed as dentally fit and many of those had upper and lower dentures.That’s not a lot of pearly whites!

With the army struggling to treat almost universal dental annihilation, the NSW branch of the Australian Dental Association set up a clinic at the showgrounds where a team of 80 volunteer dentists worked in relays of twelve. These volunteers included my grandfather, Bob Curtin, who had a dental practice in Macquarie Street and you can see him hard at work in the photo above.

By the time the clinic closed in September 1941, 66,991 teeth had pulled out along with giving 97,763 fillings and supplying 19,318 dentures. I can’t help wondering what happened to all those teeth and whether they’ve all been stashed somewhere in one of these construction holes you see in the ground. I’ve never thought of teeth as landfill before but given those numbers, disposing of all those teeth must’ve been a consideration. Or, perhaps the tooth fairy took off with the lot. In that case, leaving a penny under all those bottles of beer, must’ve cost her a pretty penny.

Army dentists cartoon 1940

Not unsurprisingly, the soldiers themselves were less than enthusiastic about fronting up to the dentist. Indeed, one soldier we’ll just call “Jack” spilled the beans on what was known as the “Dental Clinic Racket”. This was not only a way of avoiding the dentist. It had the added bonus of getting them out of all sorts of duties so they could head off to their “bung-hole” (bed) instead:

“To secure, immunity from distasteful tasks by this means a soldier would first make an appointment with the clinic. He would show the appointment slip to the sergeant and be sent away from the kitchen, or some other fatigue to keep the appointment. At the clinic he would plead some excuse for delay, and the dentists, always willing to oblige, almost invariably agreed, to make an appointment for another day, The soldier was then free to go to his”bung-hole” and rest. But we have a checking system from today which will kill that dodge. Of course, in a day or so, the boys will think up a new one.”

Jack then goes on to say that the dental clinic made a raid on his unit that morning:

“All the boys were examined for dental defects, and if extractions were required, hustled straight over to get the works. I’ve seen some of those boys rush up a hill with fixed bayonets, yelling like madmen. The enemy was only imaginary, but I know that they would, and-will, do tho same when shot and shell are flying. But when these men were told to face the Dental Corps they paled, and almost had to be driven to the clinic. If the Dental Corps, had the same effect on an enemy, they would make ideal front line troops.”

Eunice & Robert Wedding

The marriage of Eunice Gardiner & Robert Vincent Curtin at St Mary’s Cathedral 1940.

As it turned out, 1940 was a busy year for my grandfather. That photo appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 2nd July, 1940. While my grandfather was flat out trying to maintain his dental practice while volunteering out at the showground, a young concert pianist had returned from London to tour Australia with the ABC under famous English conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham. While I’m not exactly sure of when they arrived in Australia it would appear they arrived in March, 1940. At some point along the way, my grandmother was in Sydney and had a toothache. Her brother Les had gone through school with my grandfather and I’m not too sure if that’s how she ended up there with that toothache. However, that was the beginning of a new chapter in our history. They were engaged n the 23rd August, 1940 and married in December.

Well, wrapping this up has been a bit of a rush job as I’m off to a concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music tonight and I want to potter around for a bit while I’m down there.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

U – Ulverstone: Tasmanian Light Horse Memorial.


Welcome to Day 18 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may already know, we’re Travelling Alphabetically around Tasmania. Much of the details and the photographs in this series, came from trip to Tasmania in January. This was a family holiday to show their kids where Daddy came from, but it also came to connect us with Geoff’s late father and his family ties throughout Northern Tasmania. Due to the alphabetical nature of this challenge, we have skipped some of Tasmania’s better known places and landmarks, and gone where the alphabet takes us.

Map Ulverstone to Devonport

That is how we’ve ended up in U for Ulverstone today.  Ulverstone is on the mouth of the Leven River, on Bass Strait 21 kilometres (13 mi) west of Devonport and 12 kilometres (7 mi) east of Penguin. Penguin, by the way, is where Geoff’s Dad was born and raised and it’s also where his mother died when he was only nine years old.

For those of you who might not be aware, being the 25th of April, today is ANZAC Day.  Rather than explaining what ANZAC Day here, defer to the Australian War Memorial: https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac-tradition/

So, we will be attending the dawn service in Ulverstone at the Cenotaph.

light_horsemen

It is quite apt that we’ve come to Ulverstone on ANZAC Day, as it is the site of the Tasmanian Light Horse Memorial. This acknowledges Ulverstone’s pivotal role in the formation of the Light Horse in Tasmania.

In 1899, Colonel Legge, the Commander of the Tasmanian Colonial Military Forces requested that the Tasmanian Government should raise a Reconnaissance Regiment to support two Tasmanian Ranger Infantry Units. The Tasmanian Government  granted the request and Colonel Legge selected the district of Ulverstone to form the mounted unit. This district was selected because Colonel Legge noted that the farmers were prosperous and there were many fine young men in the area and the horses were of a high standard. http://www.lighthorse.org.au/resources/units-in-service/22nd-light-horse

With the advent of World War One the 12 LHR was renamed the 26th Australian Light Horse Regiment (26 LHR). This unit provided officers, men and equipment to form a Tasmanian Squadron for service in World War One.”C” Squadron was posted to the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment (3LHR) that was being raised in South Australia. This first AIF unit served for seven months at Gallipoli before joining the Australian Mounted Division in Palestine where they served with honour until 1918. The 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment, including the Tasmanian “C” Squadron cleared and held the hills to the right of the line during the last great cavalry charge at Beersheba.

Major James Norbert Griffin

Uncle Jim

Geoff’s Great Uncle, Major James Griffin, served in this C Squadron  3rd Regiment Light Horse, enlisting on the18th August, 1914. He was 24 years and 9 months old and a farmer from Dunorlan, near Deloraine. Later, his brother Daniel also joined the Light Horse. Both of these men returned, but so many did not. Such as Gunner Robert Ralph French, his Great Uncle of his Mum’s side, but still known throughout the family as “Nanna’s brother”. In WWII, two of Nanna’s sons served, thankfully both returned home but her nephew was Killed in Action.

Lest we forget.

My thoughts and prayers today are for those who have lost someone close to them through war. Or, have also survived the aftermath of these horrors, after service people returned home with severe PTSD. Geoff’s aunt talked to me about how women were encouraged to help the men settle in back home and in a sense “re-civilise” them, which was mighty unfair leaving women and children at serious risk of emotional and physical harm, something which really has been swept under the carpet and is only starting to be addressed with our current generation of service people and much more needs to be done.

Lest we forget!

Blessings,

Rowena

A link to a previous ANZAC Day post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/our-anzac-pilgrimage/

Quote: Living With Yourself.

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

–Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

As hard as it it to live with someone else, perhaps the most difficult person to live is ourselves.

After all, we live with our selves twenty four hours a day seven days a week from birth right through to eternity. That’s way longer than being stuck in the same lift with someone…anyone!!

When I was younger, I used to get frustrated when my Mum would think she knew me better than I knew myself. Who did she think she was? She wasn’t me. She wasn’t walking in my shoes. Indeed, she had her own shoes and she could jolly well step straight back in them and leave my shoes alone!!

However, I have lately come to appreciate that we only know ourselves from the inside out.. through our own eyes, our own experience and let’s faceit, when you’ve only been on the planet for 5 short years, your understanding of the bigger picture and wider world is extremely limited.

Those around us, particularly who know us well but also have a broader experience and knowledge of life, can not only see us but also where and how we might fit into the overall scheme of things. They can see abilities in us we might overlook or downplay as well because so many of us are our own worst critics. In putting ourselves down or aiming for a perfection we can never attain, we can completely dismiss our strengths and fail to become all we were meant to be.

Rowena sea steps

Returning to the quote, however, that deals more with our conscience. That it doesn’t matter what other people think or hold dear, we must be true to our own values and conscience. Stand up and be counted…even if we are the one…that lone voice calling out through the wilderness.

After all, only we need to live with ourselves…and our actions and inactions. No one else.

As Edmund Burke wrote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Moreover, for those of you who are a bit like me and feel you can’t do much, he also wrote:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Edmund Burke

It is so much easier for us to point the finger out, instead of pointing it in and asking: “What is my role? What do I need to do? Not someone else…just me.

What are your views? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

I would like to thank Merril Smith for sharing the quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird, which inspired this post. You can read her post here: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/walk-and-talk/

Weekend Coffee Share: Paris and the week that was.

Although the world is in mourning after the Paris atrocities, I still feel the need to get together for coffee this weekend.  Not out of defiance or as a show of resilience but because I need to be with friends. I want to talk about all of this and what it means. How I was walking the streets on Google Earth last week researching my book and how I can’t understand how this has happened…even though it’s no surprise. Our world is at war but it’s a war with new rules we’re all struggling to understand and work out, collectively and as individuals, how to respond.

Just reminder too, that we live in Greater Sydney, Australia so our time zones here could well be quite different to your own.

However, the week didn’t start or end with Paris so I’m going to rewind a little.  Although what happened here probably hasn’t made the news, we’ve had a few storms in our own tea cup and my nerves were well and truly fried before Paris.

Up until Thursday, I’d been making good progress on the Book Project and after 9 years of procrastination, self-doubt and false starts, I’ve finally made progress and it’s been wonderful. I’m almost delirious with joy. Thrilled.

Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris.

Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris.

As I mentioned when we had coffee last week, the book starts in Paris in July 1992 when I did a poetry reading at the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop. I was only 21 and didn’t realise at the time how exceptional it was for a young 21 year old writer to get their own gig. After all, I was hardly Hemingway and had self-published my anthology on the photocopier.

At the Eiffel Tower in 1992

At the Eiffel Tower in 1992

For the last two weeks, I’ve moved heaven and earth trying to squeeze back into my 21 year old self and walk those streets again via Google maps.

It’s been an absolutely incredible journey where I’ve been living, breathing and all but eating Paris.

The mood started to change on Thursday when four Black Hawk helicopters flew overhead, just above our roof. This was the beginning of a terrifying ordeal where they were doing low-flying loops over our quiet, regional beach side town. The noise was unbelievable and that alone inspired terror. But what was the army doing here? I’ve never even seen one army helicopter here before. This was very unusual.

Living in a post 9/11 world, we’ve been told to watch out for unattended packages and to report suspicious activity. So, when we saw these four army helicopters doing loop after loop after loop of town, we were naturally concerned…i.e we panicked! The kids were really getting worried and upset and my heart was racing as well.

Black Hawk Helicopter.

Black Hawk Helicopter.

I rang my husband at work. Of course, my husband is fully capable to handling a national emergency. Daddy can do anything.

When Geoff suggested that there wouldn’t be four army helicopters out there for no reason, that just confirmed my worst fears. I locked the front door and grabbed the laptop. Surely, Google would know.

Well, it turned out to be a false alarm. It was an Army training exercise.

However, those helicopters did seem to herald in the forces of doom.

The Lifeguard's board wasn't much chop for taking on this almighty storm.

The Lifeguard’s board wasn’t much chop for taking on this almighty storm.

Friday afternoon, we were hit by an incredible hail storm. Stupid me who thinks “photography” when she sees huge, towering black clouds dripping incredibly menacing tentacles across the sky, headed down to the beach to get some shots. I ended up feeling like I was trapped inside my tin can with huge golf ball-sized lumps of hail pelting against the car just waiting for the windscreen to smash into a million pieces. Meanwhile at home, the hail had smashed through the office roof and rain was pouring in. Indeed, my keyboard was doing laps of my sodden desk.

Hail Stone.

Hail Stone.

Despite my medical condition, I was moving out piles of books and computer equipment while our daughter was chasing buckets and strategically placed them round the room. Mister wanted to get up on the roof and then went charging down the street to check on the neighbours as I pointed out that we were in crisis. I called the State Emergency Service and their volunteers saved the day, patching the roof with some corrugated iron sheets from the shed. Order was restored…aside from the mess!

The backyard after the storm.

The backyard after the storm.

This storm certainly concerned me because its intensity was uncharacteristically strong for around here, a reminder of another global crisis…global warming.

Our Border Collie doing his agility training...chasing his ball through the debris. He';s an addict!

Our Border Collie doing his agility training…chasing his ball through the debris. He’;s an addict!

I woke up on Saturday morning, feeling absolutely frazzled. My nerves were literally fried. What with the deafening din of military helicopters, I was wrecked.

Saturday, we somehow managed to get ourselves together and out to the opening of the Scout Hall. It was a fabulous day of celebrating with community and it was fabulous to see such inspirational young people and their leaders learning skills that can help them be trail blazers for their peers.

Then, we arrived home to hear news of Paris.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

I am in mourning. The world is in mourning. Can’t imagine what it would be like in Paris , although we experienced terrorism on a small scale in Sydney just over a year ago. Yes, we know that horror and I knew one of the people taken hostage and people who work around Martin Place and had to go back to work and face that horror day after day without knowing if that was the beginning or the end. The courage of the ordinary becomes extraordinary at such times.

Here’s a previous post I wrote in response to Paris: Solidarite: Je Suis Paris https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/solidarite-je-suis-paris/

So, while coffee today might not be very upbeat but coming together at such times, is what coffee and especially that proverbially cup of tea is all about…a welcome cup of healing.

So, this week, I am offering a cup of love, understanding, hugs and even a box of tissues.

I hope and pray that you and yours are okay!

Love and heartfelt blessings,

xx Rowena

This blog is part of the Weekend Coffee Share. Here’s the linky: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=582184  I recommend reading Solveig Werner’s post. She lives in Paris: http://solveigwerner.com/2015/11/14/my-heart-is-aching/

We send you our love!

We send you our love!

A Letter to the Sun.

Dear Sun,

Where the @#$$% are you?

Just in case you haven’t checked your calendar lately, it’s now the end of September.You’re supposed to be here by now and no more of these fleeting drop-in, guest appearances either! It’s well and truly Spring. Summer is just around the corner…not a few blocks away, despite what you might think.You’re supposed to be here by now!

Indeed, it’s now almost October and for some strange reason, you’ve gone Missing In Action.

It is currently 14.8°C and I know I can’t blame you for the wind but it’s a roaring 14 knots and even the dogs are complaining that their fur is being blown all the way to New Zealand.

After preliminary inquiries, I’ve established that you were last seen on the Australian East Coast on Monday 21st September at 5.50PM, although there have been a few unconfirmed sightings since then.

Meanwhile, I’ve received confirmed reports that you’ve escaped back to the Northern Hemisphere and I’m starting to wonder if you’ve been snatched, although I’m yet to receive any ransom demands.

I repeat where the @#$$% are you?

If you don’t report back in by 07.00 hours, you will be considered AWOL and can expect an instant court martial upon your return.

Yours sincerely,

Australia.

Victim or Victor: The Lessons of Gallipoli 100 Years On.

One hundred years on, were the ANZACS of Gallipoli victims or victors? Moreover, what does the spirit of ANZAC mean today as we ride through our own battles… victims or victors?

While this sounds like something you’d come across in a high school history exam, I’ve been pondering these complex questions today as we commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the ANZACs landing at Gallipoli.

By the way, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. On the 25th April, 1915 the ANZACSs landed at Gallipoli, launching a doomed and brutal campaign. On the 25th April of ANZAC Day each year, Australians commemorate the sacrifices made by Australians in all theatres of war. Traditionally, we wear a sprig of Rosemary for remembrance and either attend a march or watch on TV and we also bake  the ANZAC Biscuits. These were sent in care packages to the soldiers on the front .

Scouts marching to the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

Scouts marching to the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

Being the 100th anniversary, as you could imagine there have been a plethora of commemorations and people turned out in absolute droves to ANZAC Day marches all around Australia and even travelled to Gallipoli. This morning, our kids were marching to the Dawn Service at the local cenotaph with their Scout group. Geoff was taxi and I was photographer. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m quite a night owl and night owls have something of an anaphylactic reaction to seeing the sun rise so it wasn’t easy for me to get moving. At the same time, despite my health issues and lack of sleep, I didn’t think I could bail out. Shame! Shame! Shame! Our boys sacrificed their lives and quality of life for us to know freedom and yet I couldn’t get out of bed? Yes, I was up and out the door with the family long before the birds and I was really looking forward to being a part of it all. The kids were also looking forward to meeting the old diggers. They love seeing their medals and hearing their stories. I just need to keep reminding them that they’re medals and not “badges”.

Dawn breaking after the commemorative service.

Dawn breaking after the commemorative service.

So, when the alarm went off at 4 am this morning and I staggered out of bed after only 4 hours sleep, I really had to slap myself. Remind myself what it was like for the ANZACS who landed under the cloak of darkness at ANZAC Cove on the 25th April, 1916. They not only had to get up and out the door long before sunrise but dress and psyche themselves up for battle. Prepare themselves for the possibility and in the case of the Gallipoli, the near certainty, of death. As if going into battle wasn’t hard enough, after an initial tow into shore, the ANZAC actually had to row into the beach. This was pretty tough going. The sort of thing, as my Dad would say, puts serious hair on your chest. But wait, there’s more. There they are rowing through the icy waters in absolute darkness not out in the backyard where everything is familiar but in a foreign country with a foreign tongue and showers of bullets pouring down on the beach. Although the first arrivals might have had that element of surprise, subsequent arrivals did not and the casualties were high.

Australian Troops in front of the pyramids in Egypt.

Australian Troops in front of the pyramids in Egypt.This photo was part of the display in the school library.

As I reflect on it all now, even those with a heightened sense of adventure, would have known that sense of terror and yet they went forward. Wave after wave after wave and with each succeeding wave, the horror of witnessing those who have just died in front of their very own eyes, smacking them straight in the face. Yet, they went on. Men of such courage and valour…lambs going to the slaughter…yet, they fought on. 8,709 Australians lost their lives at Gallipoli.

Volumes have been written about the failed Gallipoli campaign and how Australian nationhood and a sense of Australian mate ship and national character were forged in the battlefields of Gallipoli.

In so many ways, it’s hard to understand why Gallipoli is almost deified in Australian history, culture and political speeches (and rants!). I swear any other country would be celebrating its victories, not it’s defeats. Indeed, in comparision to the Gallipoli Campaign, Australia’s incredible contribution towards victory on the Western Front, is rather underplayed and seems to be something of a PS on every ANZAC Day.

However, in a country characterized by drought, flood, deadly poisonous reptiles and the likes of the Great White Shark, much of our identity has been forged by hardship, loss and indeed loss of life. Being Australian is almost synonymous with living with and overcoming adversity.

A few years ago, we found out that my husband’s Great Uncle, Major James Griffin, had fought at Gallipoli with the 3rd Australian Lighthorse. Born in Moltema in Rural NW Tasmania, Uncle Jim arrived at Gallipoli on the 12th May, 1915…two and a half weeks after the first landing. Uncle Jim survived the war but died well before my husband was even born. This means that we don’t have any personal stories, insights or letters relating to his time in Gallipoli. However, Geoff has inherited a handful of photos of men in military uniform including Uncle Jim and his brother, Uncle Dan, who Geoff did meet. Geoff didn’t grow up really being consciously aware of their war time service and we only found out the details of his war service a few years ago after his service records went online. I should point out that this could well have been more than the code of silence. Geoff’s grandmother, their sister, passed away when Geoff’s father was only around eight and there was also physical distance involved as well.

8,709 Australians died at Gallipoli.

While we have been touched to find a close family connection with Gallipoli and I’m intermittently trying to retrace James and Daniel Griffin’s footsteps, today my research deviated yet again…another twist in the road and I was thinking about and exploring something else…a story about two brothers. Indeed, a story of a younger brother following in his older, much taller brother’s footsteps. On the 19th September, 1915 Daniel Griffin enlisted with the Third Lighthorse at Claremont, Tasmania. That’s around 5 months after his brother disembarked at Gallipoli and by the time he steamed out of Melbourne on the 28 October 1915 onboard the SS Hawkes Bay, the first casualties from Gallipoli had started trickling back to Australia.

While letters home could well have concealed the true nature of war, the graphic image of the war wounded arriving back testified to the horrors of war and yet still men went…women too.

This is what it really means to be brave…to be courageous. To know what you are up against yet still take up the fight. That’s what turns you into a victor, even if you lose the battle because at least you’ve fought the fight. Had a go and done your best.

When newspapers reported the first casualties of the Gallipoli campaign returned to Australia, they mentioned welcomed home ceremonies. These men were heroes, even though the Gallipoli campaign itself was an utter, utter failure. There was no talk about “woe is them” or “pity” just gratitude for the sacrifice they’d made and an excitement that they were back home. Also, the community was incredibly thankful for the sacrifice they’d made. These proud men were anything but victims and they certainly weren’t whingeing and selling their tales of woe to the highest bidder, like you see today. They had their dignity and commanded respect. That said, these were changed men. Ultimately, the Allies won the won the war. Quite aside from any physical injuries, many returned home shell-shocked or what we now refer to as PTSD. These victors were also victims.

I know this is fast forwarding very crudely but after the pre-dawn start, I’m beyond tired and am needing to get this posted. So even though it’s a bit of a leap to the end of the war, I wanted to leave you with an interesting story I found about Geoff’s grandmother, Molly Griffin, sister to Major James and Daniel Griffin. She was the school teacher in Mt Hicks.

MT HICKS BONFIRES.

The signing of the armistice was celebrated at Mt. Hicks on Tuesday night. A large bonfire was lit on the highest point of the mount. Cr. Jones said a few words appropriate to tho occasion, and concluded ‘ by announcing that there was an effigy of the Kaiser hidden somewhere, in the paddock, but the young ladies of Mt. Hicks requested that they should have the first privilege of dealing with it. The ladies then made a search, and soon drew the Kaiser from his place of hiding, marched him to the bonfire, and committed him to the flames amid much rejoicing! An adjournment was then made to an adjoining paddock, where two stacks of old straw stood; these had been given by Mr Horace Cross for the purpose of making other bonfires, and they were soon alight, the flames illuminating the surrounding country. The children were supplied with fireworks by Miss Griffin, and a time of rejoicing was spent by all present.

The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times (Tas. : 1899 – 1919)Friday 15 November 1918 p 3 Article

Trying to address this topic for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge was being too ambitious but as the saying goes: “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”. Through just trying to sort out sufficient details to write this short piece, involved quite a lot of research and a much greater appreciation of what our armed forces went through. When I think of those young men rowing through the dark and freezing waters of a foreign country when most of us say we can’t get going in the morning without our coffee or some other pick-me-up and it is incredibly humbling. I can get quite anxious about my driving or changes such as our son starting high school next year and these can be quite paralyzing and yet our troops couldn’t be paralyzed. They had to keep going. Keep their wits about them and move through the greatest fear most of us face…dying…and come out fighting.

Poppies of remembrance. Lest we forget.

Poppies of remembrance. Lest we forget.

I have been left with a much, much deeper sense of what these incredibly brave and courageous young men went through and I thank them and their families from the very bottom of my heart.

Lest we forget!

xx Rowena

PS This post is very much a work in progress. If you have found any historical inaccuracies, please let me know. I’d really appreciate it. Unfortunately, I’ve pretty much had to write this on the run.

The Unspoken Language of Love.

On Sunday, when we celebrated our son’s 11th Birthday, it was about so much more than cake, presents and even the much anticipated party. It was a golden opportunity to show our son how much we love and cherish him and for him to sparkle like a diamond in the candlelight. There’s nothing like your birthday!

If you read my last post, you’ll understand that celebrations have become quite a production and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon finds its way to Broadway or London’s West End.

I’ve already dealt with the cake.

Now, we’re onto the presents…or THE present, in particular. You see, I gave Mister a second-hand Australian Army uniform, which I chanced upon at a local opportunity or thrift shop.

Choosing gifts is something I take pretty seriously. I really do try to slip inside someone else’s skin, walk around in their shoes, see the world through their eyes and their soul to find that “Wow thing”. That thing which makes their heart sing. Not only because they love it but also because they know I understand. I get them. This gift, therefore, somehow reflects that very special, often concealed inner self or perhaps the seeds of that very precious dream, which are just waiting to germinate, flourish and grow yet are still so tender, tentative and so very embryonic.

To put it simply, gift giving is a great way to show empathy, which is such an important component of love. It is the life-giving force which enables us to grow and reach for the stars.

After all, don’t we all know it when someone gives us something which misses the mark entirely or when our significant other gives us something so impersonal that it could’ve come from a stranger? These gifts affect us in a different way, so often stabbing a knife through the heart. Quite bluntly, they clearly don’t understand you at all!!

A happy birthday boy!

A happy birthday boy!

Although I don’t always find that perfect present which fulfills all these hopes and expectations, I did find the perfect gift for Mister and I couldn’t wait to see his response. As I mentioned, I bought Mister an Australian Army uniform I chanced upon at the op shop. Mister wants to join the army when he grows up and although I’m not keen, I pushed my own feelings aside and supported my son. Of course, the uniform is  way too big but dreams are like that at the start. We have to grow into them.

Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what’s important.

Elle Macpherson

More than just being an army uniform, this was a very special birthday present from me to him. It said I can put my values and desires aside to respect and nurture his dreams and encourage him to grow up and be himself, rather than trying to shape and mold him into who or what I think he should be and, in effect, turn him into a bonsai…a pruned and shrunk down version of who he was meant to be.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

You see, in my youth I was pretty opposed to armies, war and battles. I even took part in protests against Australia’s involvement in the Gulf War and marched through the streets. I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist but I’d definitely be of the view: “Make love not war”.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

I’m also a person who, at least I hope, has principles and have built up something called “character”. This means having values and standing up for what I believe in. Before the kids were born, for example, there were going to be no Barbies, no guns and definitely no signing up and joining the army. But as much as you bring up your children, they also modify you and seeing pure happiness and joy glowing on your child’s precious face does tinker with these values a bit. Or, at least, it does for me.

Hate to admit it but a persistent campaign of incessant nagging by your kids can also make an impact on all you held dear as well!

Mister was thrilled when he opened up his present. He was so happy with such an enormous smile that he was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I was happy too.  Both kids held  the uniform up against themselves and it looked ridiculously big, reminding me of a comedy sketch from Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW6gj2n51sU

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

I’m sure Mister didn’t appreciate what giving him that army uniform represented. Of course, he doesn’t know just what a seismic shift it is for me to embrace his love of the army. While I love any form of history and honour our ex-service people and collect memorabilia and books from WWI and WWII, that’s very different from having your one and only beloved son go and sign up. That possibility, though still a long way off, does trouble me a bit because I was also his age once and that was when I decided to become a writer and I’ve never veered off course. Writing is like breathing and I even write in myself. Actually, truth be told, I’m often writing when I should be asleep!! I knew that’s who I was when I was 10 and it was set in stone.

However, as much as I have marched and protested going to war, I also felt it was important that I support my son in how he sees himself and in pursuing his dreams. Recognising who he is as a person and empowering him to walk in his own shoes instead of trying to impose me or my values on him like an iron on transfer. Just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean their dreams and values aren’t precious and worthy of recognition and respect, even if we would rather they pursued a different path. Our children need to know they can trust us with their dreams and aspirations. After all, they come from the very heart of the soul and are so very, very precious and need to be handled with kid gloves … certainly not ridiculed or rejected. That, would be like stomping on the precious wings of a beautiful butterfly which, having just emerged from its chrysalis and waited for its tender wings to dry, is about to take its first tenuous flight…and this is your child who is so much more worthy than that.

So I gave him the army uniform and made him happy.

So happy that he took the army uniform to school on Monday, particularly to show his teacher whose son is in the army. He was as proud of punch and he truly respects all that the uniform stands for and what it means to fight for your country. Well, as much as you can when you’re an 11 year old kid and war is on the other side of the world and it’s not in your own backyard.

So I managed to get it right.

Or did I?

After all, was it just coincidence that I strayed across that army uniform in the op shop or was it meant to be? Serendipity? God? Destiny fate?

This isn’t just an erroneous question. I am an op shop addict and I have never seen an army uniform for sale in an op shop before and yet there it was just a couple of weeks before Mister’s birthday. As much as I might have decided to stretch myself well beyond my comfort zone to encourage his dreams, I also suspect I was nudged.

Interesting!

Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.

Maria Shriver

By the way, I should point out that while I was protesting, Geoff’s brother was actually in the Australian army and Mister has grown up with Uncle Terry’s slouch hat in the house. Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French died in France during WWI and we have been down to the Australian War Memorial as a family to honour him and we even participated in a special memorial service they hold each day and we laid down a wreath. Another Great Uncle served in Gallipolli and went on to serve in Beersheba in the Australian Light Horse. So it would seem that joining the Armed Forces are in my son’s blood.

xx Rowena

PS A week after Mister’s birthday while I’m sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send as a post birthday present to my son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ