Tag Archives: WWI

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.

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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.

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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.

Byron Bay Continued…Walking Through Bangalow’s Past.

Our adventures around Byron Bay continue today as we visit the village of Bangalow. However, this journey is going to be a little different. You see, instead of simply walking up the hill and seeing what’s there now and exploring all the irresistible nooks and crannies, I’d also like you to think of yourself slowly walking through the doors of perception into a kind of time warp. Indeed, if you look at the main street, you’ll observe a red phone box, which for our purposes will act as a form of tardis. So, please step onboard and welcome to Bangalow past and present.

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The Magic Red Time Machine AKA Red Phone Box.

Self-described as “a bit above Byron”, Bangalow is a historic rural town located 13 km west of Byron Bay, 758 km north of Sydney and 165 km south of Brisbane. Moreover, just in case you have absolutely no sense of direction or geography whatsoever, we’re in Australia. I try never to take that for granted. Just because I know where I am, it doesn’t mean you’re in the know.

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The map above shows Newrybar where were staying with Bangalow at the centre and Byron Bay top right.

As you may be aware, Geoff and zipped up to stay at nearby Newrybar with his sister  last week, while the kids were away at the Australian Scout Jamboree and I’m now endeavoring to drag you along with me in a virtual blogging sense.

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However, rather than confirming how well I know Bangalow after coming here nearly every year for the last 20 years, this visit actually showed up my ignorance. Have you ever had that experience when you think you know a place, but then you suddenly see it from a different light, and you realize that you barely knew it at all? Indeed, you might even call this place home or your home away from home, and yet there are these mysteries. Those walls and corridors which are silent, and yet they speak. The trick, however, is finding a way to tune in and actually listen to their stories. Chip away at the layers of paint to find out what’s hidden underneath and the old newspapers are very good for that.

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Modern newspaper headlines outside the newsagency. I’m intrigued by “Ghost Hunters on a Mission”!

My ignorance suddenly jumped out at me when I met a member of the Bangalow Historical Society while I was photographing the museum (which used to be a brothel in nearby Brunswick Heads and it was transported to its current location.) I’d noticed that one of the shop fronts was clearly dated 1911 and I had wondered whether there was any significance to the date. As it turned out, a dreadful fire destroyed three wooden shops:


Fire at Bangalow.

All that remained of that range of comparatively new buildings from Garvey’s hotel property to the Commercial Banking Company’s premises in the main street on Friday morn ing was a strongroom, two chimneys, a tankful of boiling water and a confused mass of burning remains. Miss Dye first gave the alarm about 4.30. She states that she was awakened by the sound ,of burning timber, and, looking out of the window, observed flames rising from the building on the opposite side of the street. Calls awakened the Messrs Savage, who spread the alarm, and the ringing of the Convent and Pub lie School bells aroused the whole town. The building discovered to be on fire was owned by Mr W. Barby. It adjoined Garvey’s Hotel, and consisted of Mr W. Martin’s hairdressers, tobacconist, and fancy goods shop and billiard room, Messrs Ferguson and Torrens’ office, and Mr W, H. Perry’s tailoring establishment. Between this building and Blackwell and Sons’ store was a lane only 9ft wide and the flames quickly spread to their premises. The next building was the Commercial Bank, but be fore the fire reached it, the manager had time to remove valuable documents to the E.S. and A. Bank on the opposite side of the street. Fortunately the morning was calm, otherwise the houses on the opposite side of the street must also have gone. Savage’s new shop caught fire, but wet blankets and a copious drenching of water saved it. The telephone lines were fused, and telephonic communication was suspended. The damage is estimated at about £5000. Mullumbimby Star (NSW : 1906 – 1936), Thursday 10 August 1911, page 8

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Another detail I noticed walking up the main street on this visit was the War Memorial Clock outside Bangalow Post Office. It was unveiled on ANZAC Day 1937, just two years before Australia and the world were back at war. In place of numerals to mark the hour, the words “Lest We Forget,” are placed around the dial.Although I hadn’t really noticed and embraced it before, this time I paused to remember those who had made the ultimate sacrifice and all those young lads, especially from our country towns who went to serve our country.

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It’s interesting how these small details you can easily miss walking up the street, open a window in Bangalow’s past. Yet, of course, I’m not here to provide a comprehensive history of Bangalow. Rather, I’m here to share MY Bangalow, which is no doubt a different Bangalow to the one someone else experiences. After all, each of us is selective, plucking out the things we love and are relevant to us, while ignoring and perhaps even being totally oblivious to the rest. We couldn’t possibly take it all in and wouldn’t want to either.

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Personally, I’m drawn to Bangalow’s historic architecture and quaint village feel as well as its artistic and creative flair…and of course the monthly markets when they’re on. As a visitor, it can be a bit hit and often more miss, as to whether the markets are on while we’re in town. Food is another drawcard and I always head up to the Choux Choux Cafe and love their Chocolate Saffron Chocolate Mouse Cake. I also buy a few Yum Cha treats at Red Ginger and sip on complimentary Chinese tea, while I write in my journal.

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Doing what I do best in Bangalow…Iced Coffee, chocolate cake and my journal at Choux Choux Cafe.

Bangalow has also been my escape hatch, especially when the kids were younger. Geoff’s sister used to do family daycare and would mind the kids while I escaped to spread my wings. Back when they were small, these escapes were my salvation. My creative side was actually able to draw breath and I know that I’ve already mentioned spreading my wings. However, when the bird escapes from her cage, that sense of freedom and being able to enter an artistic realm can not be under-estimated. That’s not to say I don’t love my kids and that we didn’t do creative things together. I don’t believe a parent should have to apologize for having a breather. Indeed, I believe it’s healthy. A short leash can have a stranglehold.

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You never know what you’re going to see round Byron Bay and Bangalow. I spotted this ute pull up across the road while I was at Choux Choux and was rather gobsmacked spotted a flamingo in the back of the ute. A loving Dad, it was a gift for his daughter’s birthday.

Yet, when you visit Bangalow today with its relaxed boutique village feel, it’s hard to believe that the notorious Pacific Highway used to roar through town and the very buildings where you now relax over a chai latte or peppermint tea, once rattled as the semi-trailers and trucks ploughed through. That all changed on December 14, 1994, when the Bangalow bypass was officially opened. The highway now bypasses most of these smaller coastal and country towns and while it’s dramatically reduced travel times and created quieter and safer local hubs, the trip is nowhere near as interesting as it used to be. It’s an A to B run with a fast food stop along the way. Or, for the wanderer at heart, detours off the road most traveled.

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The CWA is the Country Women’s Association and has been an institution in Australian Country Towns for generations. Well known for their cookbooks and baking competitions.

 

 

My explorations through the newspapers also reminded me of Bangalow’s dairying heritage. A relic of it’s dairying past can be seen at The Buttery,  which in keeping with the changing times, is now a drug rehab centre. This newspaper description from the Farmer and Settler , Friday 22 July 1927 recreates  this Bangalow well:


BANGALOW.

Bungalow, in the early days the centre of the ”Big Scrub, is to-day a district of broad pastures and successful dairy farms with over 40,000 milking cows on its 8,000 acres, Laid out In 1891 by Surveyor J. B. Kelly, it was first known as Byron Creek. The first settlers in the district, who arrived about 1882, wore Messrs. Robert Campbell and J. P Garvan, Mr Campbell’s farm, known as ‘Granuaille,’ consisted of 640 acres, and the town of Bungalow stands on part of this land. Mrs. P. Garvey called the town Bangalow, because of the many palms of that name in the district, and it is known by that name to-day. After finding that sugar-cane growing did not pay, because, of the long haulage to the mill, the early settlers turned to dairying only forty two years ago. A co-operative butter factory was started In Bungalow In 1892, but with the introduction of hand separators the cream was sent to the factories of the . North Coast. Co-oporatlve Co. Ltd., at Byron Bay and Binna Burra. Just before 1900, cow that returned £5 per year, was considered a falr animal, but to-day If she does not give a return of £12 per annum the owner Is likely to dis pose of her. Tho soil of the Bungalow district Is of porous, volcanic diameter. Watered by many small streams and receivlng an average of 70-lnches of rain annually, successful pastures of paspalum and clover are grown, and in many cases the land is ploughed and sown to winter grasses. Illawarra milking shorthorns are, .the most popular dairy breed, due to their steers bringing high prices, but at the present time the Jerseys are coming into general favor, and several fine herds of this breed are found in the Bangalow district. Pig raising, as a subsidiary industry of tho dairyman, is Increasing in the Bangalow district at a 25 per cent, rate every year. In addition to the pigs shipped to tho Byron Bay ‘Norco’ bacon, factory, thousands of pigs are sold at the Bangalow yards each year. No particular breed’ is favored, and the great majority are cross-breds of Tamworth, Berkshire, Improved York, and Poland China breeds. Only bacon pigs are produced In this district.”

 

 

Speaking of pork, these days Bangalow Pork is famous. As their web sites explains:

Bangalow Sweet Pork is supplied by small Australian Family Farms. We promote the use of Sustainable Agricultural Practices so that our farms will continue to provide fabulous fresh produce for generations to come. The Welfare of Animal is an extremely important part of our program as any stress at any time during the life of our pigs can greatly affect the quality of our product. So for Bangalow Sweet Pork to provide the best quality Pork available it is extremely important that our animals live a healthy and happy existence. We have been proud leaders in our industry and since our inception our product has been Antibiotic Free and we DO NOT use any Hormones on our farms.

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Before we leave Bangalow, I just wanted to make one last stopover, which I plan to visit some time in the near future. While I’m not hugely into science fiction, I have a huge imagination and when I spotted these incredible glass sculptures at Zakay Zakay Studio & Gallery, I imagined shrinking myself, climbing inside and somehow taking flight and flying high above the world in this magical glass pyramid along with all of it’s dazzling lighting effects. Hey, would you like to join me and where would you like to go? I’m taking requests.

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Goodness knows where you’ll end up traveling inside this thing.

Anyway, I hope you can appreciate these various incantations of Bangalow and tomorrow I’ll continue the tour and take it into the modern era for Thursday Doors.

Have you ever been to Bangalow? What are your special memories of the place? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

More about the Featured Image:

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Monet’s Greatest Work.

There’s a fine line between madness and genius. Indeed, I’m currently feeling like the madness side of the equation has taken hold of my brain, but sadly I’m missing the genius component. I know what I’m wanting to say, and yet my brain’s stuttering and I can’t quite get the story out. Meanwhile, Monet, the man who is rattling my brain, was a mixture of the two. Moving into his twilight years, Monet was a man not only possessed by his water lilies, but was also trying to create what could well have been his greatest gift to humanity.Yet, afflicted by failing eyesight and chronic self-doubt, he was floundering. Indeed, he wrote to a friend that “Age and chagrin have worn me out. My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that’s left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear.” So, I’m hoping that you’ll join me on another detour. One which could well be life-changing.
After visiting Monet’s stunning garden at Giverny, now we’re catching the train to Paris, where we’ll be meeting up at the Jardin de Tuilleries, not far from the Louvre. From there, we’ll be heading into the Gallerie de L’Orangerie to experience Monet’s incredible gift to the French nation and humanity…a spectacular series of water lily paintings. Monet gifted the paintings to the French nation on November 12, 1918, the day after Armistice and two days before his 78th birthday. Monet wasn’t only wanting to commemorate peace. He also wanted to create a peaceful place, where those shaken up by the war could rest their weary souls:
“You see, while shrapnel from mortars, grenades and, above all, artillery projectile bombs, or shells, accounted for an estimated 60 percent of the 9.7 million military fatalities of World War I, it was soon observed that many soldiers arriving at the casualty clearing stations who had been exposed to exploding shells, although clearly damaged, bore no visible wounds. Rather, they appeared to be suffering from a remarkable state of shock caused by blast force. This new type of injury, a British medical report concluded, appeared to be “the result of the actual explosion itself, and not merely of the missiles set in motion by it.” In other words, it appeared that some dark, invisible force had in fact passed through the air and was inflicting novel and peculiar damage to men’s brains.

“Shell shock,” the term that would come to define the phenomenon, first appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet in February 1915, only six months after the commencement of the war- https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shock-of-war-55376701/

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The Gallerie de L’Orangerie explains his achievement:
“This unique set, a true “Sixtine of Impressionism”, in the words of André Masson in 1952, testifies to Monet’s later work. It was designed as a real environment and crowns the Water Lilies cycle begun nearly thirty years before. The set is one of the largest monumental achievements of early twentieth century painting. The dimensions and the area covered by the paint surrounds and encompasses the viewer on nearly one hundred linear meters which unfold a landscape dotted with water lilies water, willow branches, tree and cloud reflections, giving the “illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore” in the words of Monet. This unique masterpiece has no equivalent worldwide.”
The Gallerie also did a far better job than I, on explaining Monet’s difficulties in completing the series:

It was in 1914, at the age of 74, when he had just lost his son and could see no hope for the future, that Monet felt a renewed desire to “undertake something on a grand scale” based on “old attempts”. In 1909, he had already told Gustave Geffroy that he wanted to see the theme of the water lilies “carried along the walls”. In June 1914, he wrote that he was “embarking on a great project”. This undertaking absorbed him for several years during which he was beset by obstacles and doubts, and when the friendship and support of one man proved decisive. This was the politician Georges Clemenceau. They met in 1860, lost touch, and met up again after 1908 when Clemenceau bought a property in Bernouville near Giverny. Monet shared Clemenceau Republican’s ideas, and we also know of Clemenceau’s keen interest in the arts. During the war, Monet continued his work alternately in the open air, when the weather was suitable, and in the huge studio that he had had built in 1916 with roof windows for natural light. On 12 November 1918, the day after the Armistice, Monet wrote to Georges Clemenceau: “I am on the verge of finishing two decorative panels which I want to sign on Victory day, and am writing to ask you if they could be offered to the State with you acting as intermediary.” The painter, therefore, intended to give the nation a real monument to peace. At this time, when it was still not certain where the decorative series was destined, it seems that Clemenceau managed to persuade Monet to increase this gift from just two panels to the whole decorative series. In 1920, the gift became official and resulted, in September, in an agreement between Monet and Paul Léon, director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, for the gift to the State of twelve decorative panels that Léon would undertake to install according to the painter’s instructions in a specific building. However, Monet, prey to doubt, continually reworked his panels and even destroyed some. The contract was signed on 12 April 1922 for the gift of 19 panels, but Monet, still dissatisfied, wanted more time to perfect his work. Clemenceau wrote to him in vain that year “you are well aware that you have reached the limit of what can be achieved with power of the brush and of the mind.” But, in the end, Monet would keep the paintings until his death in 1926. His friend Clemenceau then put everything into action to inaugurate the rooms for the Water Lilies in strict accordance with Monet’s wishes.http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en/article/history-water-lilies-cycle

Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this exhibition when I was in Paris, and as I’ve mentioned before, with my love of expressionist art, I wasn’t as keen on Monet at the time. However, now I can just imagine what it would be like to stand in the middle of that room surrounded by Monet’s lilies and the deep sense of peace and serenity which must fill the room, as though Picasso’s dove of peace had built its nest in there. It feels like a miracle.
Have you ever been to the Gallerie de l’Orangerie? What was it like? How did it feel? I’d love to hear from people who’ve experienced the collection first hand!
Best wishes,
Rowena

Ghosts of Memphis…Friday Fictioneers.

The stench of raw sweat and the blood of a thousand broken dreams permeated the decaying walls of the old boxing gym, and Hope Unlimited Church had bought it for a song.

This was where Australian boxer, Les Darcy, had fought his last fight. The grim reaper might’ve claimed his body. The Lord had claimed his soul. Yet, all the boxers knew that a part of Les Darcy still lingered in the ring and wasn’t giving up.

There must’ve been something about Memphis, because Les Darcy wasn’t the only king, who’d come back from the dead to haunt the living.

……

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Australian Boxer Les Darcy in 1910.

James Leslie “Les” Darcy was born on the 28th October, 1895 at Stradbroke, near Maitland, NSW, Australia and he had all the makings of a folk hero. His remarkable ring record—he lost only four professional fights and was never knocked out—was associated with a quite extraordinary physique: a muscular body apparently impervious to the heaviest blows and a reach 7 ins (18 cm) greater than his height of 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm). He neither smoked nor drank, and spent most of his income on his family; he attended Mass most mornings, one of his closest friends being the local priest. His decision to leave Australia secretly, in breach of the War Precautions Act, provided the controversy (and the enemies in high places) without which no hero-figure is complete: his lonely death in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 21, gave him an aura of martyrdom. So powerful a legend did he become that fifty years after his death flags flew at half-mast, and a memorial at his birthplace was unveiled by Sir William McKell, former governor-general. When he had been dead for two generations, he was still inspiring the pens of Australian nationalist writers- Australian Dictionary of Biography

Australian author, D’Arcy Niland, had a life long interest in Les Darcy and spent many years compiling notes and stories and even traveling to America and interviewing those who knew him back in 1961. However, Niland died suddenly and was unable to complete the story. However, later in life his wife author Ruth Park took on that challenge. Using the extensive material they had collected over many years, Park wrote Home Before Dark: the story of Les Darcy. It was published in 1995 by Penguin Australia.

As a personal aside, my grandparents were close friends with D’Arcy Niland and Ruth Park. Indeed, the night before D’Arcy Niland passed away, my parents met for the very first time when my grandmother held a soiree in their Lindfield home for upcoming young pianist, Gerard Willems. My grandmother was teaching my mother the piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the time, and my father was sent up to the station to pick her and Gerard Willems up. So, it seems that night marked more than one line in the sand.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. You are more than welcome to come and join us either as a writer or a reader. Simply click Here to go through to the linky.

Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. For the fallen by Laur…

Source: Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

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.

Terror in Australis: the Siege in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Today, it’s 9 days before Christmas and our Christmas tree is standing in a plastic bucket of water almost naked awaiting decorations. We’ve had a very busy weekend with our daughter’s dance concert and I played my violin at the school Christmas carols and we also had to get the decorations out of storage.Oh yes, our son and I made our Christmas cake as well. To be honest, we’ve almost been too busy for Christmas!

Tonight was going to be the night. Being a bit of a flamboyant type, I usually like to turn decorating the Christmas tree into something of a ceremony with some Christmas cake, mince pies while the sounds of Hark the Herald Angels Sing echo throughout the house. Our decorations are an eclectic mix accumulated over the years and include snowmen and coloured-in Christmas stencils the kids have done over the years.

Martin Place at Night

Martin Place at Night

However, how can we possibly dress our Christmas tree tonight while hostages are still being held captive in a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place? They’ve now been held captive for over 11 hours.  We all know the impatience of being stuck in a queue for more than 5 minutes and the fear of being trapped in a lift for any length of time and none of these horrors even comes close to the psychological and emotional trauma of being held captive by a gunman and it’s pretty safe to assume that someone who would take people hostage in the first place might not be the most stable of characters.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

However, the tide stops for no one and so we went ahead with decorating the tree although instead of the usual Christmas cheer, we were watching the rolling news coverage instead. So much for Christmas carols and a bit of Christmas cheer but there are bigger things at stake.

Rather than just rehashing what’s already being rehashed and rehashed in the media, I won’ t go into details here. I would recommend going to the Sydney Morning Herald’s website at: http://www.smh.com.au/

However, as you might not have heard of Martin Place, I thought I’d provide something of a back story. After all, you would think that the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House would be more likely choices for a siege but once you look around Martin Place a bit, the thinking becomes clearer.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Martin Place was officially opened in September 1892 and was named after the Chief Justice, Sir James Martin, a former New South Wales Attorney-General and Premier. Moore Street (between Pitt and Castlereagh streets) was widened and renamed Martin Place in 1921.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

Celebration in Martin Place: This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place where this exuberant gentleman is celebrating  the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

The Dictionary of Sydney writes:

“Martin Place has been called ‘the heart of the city’, and it was added to the Australian Heritage Commission’s list in 1989. It is the site of the Cenotaph, built in 1927, and some of Sydney’s finest buildings front it, including the GPO, two Commonwealth Bank buildings, Challis House, the Australasia Bank head office, the Colonial Mutual Life building and the APA building. Martin Place was also the site of the spectacular but now demolished Hotel Australia and the Rural Bank head office. It is home to the head offices of the Reserve Bank and a number of other banks.

Martin Place provides both a ceremonial and recreational focus for the city. Because the GPO and its associated telegraph office was originally the place where news first broke – the shipping news – people have long gathered in front of the building at times of national significance. They flocked there at the ending of wars, which was why this location was chosen for the Cenotaph, which has always been a more significant gathering point than the main war memorial in Hyde Park. The famous photograph of the ‘dancing man’ has cemented this place in the story of the ending of World War II. Today, Anzac Day and other commemorative services are held at the Cenotaph in lower Martin Place, which is also the site for the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas tree. Giant screens, first erected to allow Sydneysiders to view events from the Olympic Games in 2000, are now a regular feature of the Sydney Festival, while political demonstrations in Martin Place are a constant part of the ebb and flow of the city’s life. In 2008 it filled with people to hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech making an apology to Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations.”

http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/martin_place

ANZAC Parade through Martin Place 1930

ANZAC Day Parade through Martin Place 1930

Personally,  I think of Martin Place as a quiet place of reflection where you can take a bit of  time out from work while eating takeaway or perhaps a sandwich and there’s always a large contingent of pigeons.Come rush hour, there’s also the rush and bustle and Martin Place transforms into a sea of rapidly moving legs. It’s a great place to go people watching. Take photos and feel completely immersed in Sydney.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer's Festival last year.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer’s Festival last year.

Quite aside from its Martin Place location, the siege is in the luxurious Lindt Cafe. I’ve never actually been there myself but friends have. It’s the sort of place you go for that special indulgence and in so many instances, sharing the chocolate you love with the person you love. Lindt chocolate is absolutely divine and to be perfectly honest, many of us would have fantasized about being accidentally locked in Lindtland with all that chocolate. Obviously those chocoholic fantasies are a very different scenerario to what’s now going on at the Lindt Cafe. One minute, the hostages were in heaven, the next minute they were in hell.

This siege is like having a bullet shot into Australia’s heart and it hurts. It bewilders. We can’t understand why something this awful is happening here. Our innocence, our naivety perhaps, that these things might happen overseas but do not happen here, has been shattered. Nowhere is safe.

Traditionally, Australia has been geographically isolated from “trouble”. World War I never reached our shores and while the Japanese dropped bombs around the Australian coast notably in Sydney Harbour and Darwin, the war was largely waged on foreign soil. Intellectuals, writers, artists, performers have all lamented this isolation and have often fled our shores either by necessity or design. We were something of a backwater but the world has shrunk and we can no longer depend on this isolation. We are now part of the world wide web. We can’t turn back..whether we want to or not.

It is now more than 12 hours since the siege began and it’s hard to believe that there is no end in sight.

It is shuddering to think about what the hostages are going through…as well as their family and friends. I know that anguish of living in suspended animation and the thought of being taken away from those I love and who love me…even though I’ve never been in a hostage situation. That is anguish and we’ve seen a few of the hostages who escaped on TV and their terror is chilling.

We pray for the peaceful resolution and for the safe release of the hostages and for healing from this anguish.

I am also praying about the repercussions of this event. People are angry, scared. We’ve had our very way of life threatened and it’s only natural to fight back and defend you and yours as well as your beliefs. We do not want terrorism or violence of any sort in our country and while we do need to defend our country from internal and external attack, we also need to nurture a culture of love and acceptance where people of all  cultures and creeds feel at home. That said, extremism of any sort needs to be dealt with strongly so we can continue living in a free and just people.

I am hoping to wake up in the morning and hear that the siege is over. That it has ended well. My goodness. I am now heading off to sleep in my own bed while the hostages and sleeping or more likely spending the night with a gun point at them. Reminds me not to take things for granted and to be thankful, even though I’ve had a run of bad luck lately.

I send them, their family and friends my love.

xx Rowena