Today, in Australia and New Zealand, we commemorate Anzac Day. It is a national day of remembrance in both countries that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders (including animals) “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations”. It particularly honours those Army soldiers who served at Galliopli in 1915.
There are many commemoration services held around both countries and at Galliopli, but I have to admit that it’s been a while since I have been to one. I simply don’t ‘do‘ crowds. That doesn’t stop me from remembering though. While I am an advocate of peace, I have great admiration and respect for those who have served in the past, and those who still serve. I just hope and pray that one day such service will no longer be necessary and we will find a way of living in this world in harmony.
My chief memory relating to Anzac Day lies with my paternal Grandfather. Let me tell you about his war service. Don’t worry. It won’t take long.
My grandfather joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Intelligence Division as a Lieutenant to fight in World War Two. He was stationed at home in New Zealand but was required to go overseas regularly. He was injured in an accident (in New Zealand) and those injuries left him unwell for the rest of his life.
That’s it. We don’t know anything else. In the approximately five years my grandfather served, and in the years after, he was never allowed to tell anyone of what he did, and where he went. Granddad died about 25 years later and took his secrets with him.
It strikes me this year as I remember him, and others who served, that the trauma they witnessed must have been immense. Now days we are becoming more aware of the affects of the trauma soldiers face. We recognise the existence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the havoc that can play on their lives in the years following their service. I know we still have a distance to go in understanding the need for help and treatment but awareness in itself has to be good.
But today, I am struck by the lack of this knowledge and understanding back in the time my grandfather served, and before in previous wars. I suspect war was very different then, to what it is today, but no less traumatic. Not just for those who served either.
My father was a child at the time his father was away at war. Neither he, not my grandmother were allowed to know anything. Not then, not ever. The hardship and fear they must have carried with them must have been huge. Remember too, this was a time of no emails, no Skype, simply no communication but the odd letter.
My grandfather, and many others with him, lived both then and into the future with no assistance in dealing with what they had seen, done and heard. The affect on their lives must be beyond our modern comprehension.
Granddad died, from his war injuries when I was three. I have just one memory of him playing in this front garden with me.
“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.”
- Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen