Permaculture in Action

Thursday, April 25, 2013

And In The Morning...

Dad was a WW11 veteran. He saw active service in New Guinea and was in Burma after the armistace.

As far back as I can remember my dad marched in the ANZAC day dawn services. As a small child I would watch the marching on the TV. As Dad marched in Sydney alongside his army mates, the whole family watched carefully, hoping to catch a glimpse of our dad. It was a futile cause as there was thousands and thousands of marchers, but I suspect that mum wanted us to feel a part our dad's march. We didn't really understand. The war wasn't something that dad would talk about.

As the last of his army mates died, dad chose to march at a service closer to home, and so for the last 15 or so years of dad's life, we joined him for the Dawn Service. I would leave home at 4am, taking with me any of my girls who wanted to come, and meet my sisters and brothers and their families, and mum and dad at the collection point.

Dad, wearing his medals proudly on his chest, joined the other Diggers on the road as they began their march to the Cenitaph. There was a long line of Diggers, service men and women, scouts and guides, and various marching bands. Family and friends walked along the footpath waving and clapping as the Diggers passed.

We all reached the Cenitaph just before dawn, listened to speeches, hymns and verse. And standing there by the lake surrounded by trees, which were full of singing birds, we listened as the bugler play the last post. It was always a very moving service and we were keen to find dad amongst the other old soldiers and give him a big hug.

We celebrated then, over breakfast. Mum, dad, dear friends, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, husbands and wives. Dad was in his element surrounded by his family, joking and laughing and making everyone feel loved and special. It was a lovely day of memories and celebration. Breakfast was always followed on this day by an icecream each, a family tradition, enthusiastically promoted by dad and eagerly anticipated by the children.

Dad had already had one operation for his cancer just before his last Dawn Service. Nobody was sure that he would be up to it. So we toned it down a bit and organised to attend a smaller  and later service with a shorter march. With his good mate by his side, he completed the march and we all joined him at the local RSL for breakfast. A lone piper came into the club and played. It was as though he played just for dad, as if he knew it was dad's last march. It made dad very happy to listen to the bagpipes- he was the son of a Scotsman after all!

 I remember, as a child, tracing the scar on his back with my finger. It was a schrapnel wound from a handgrenade explosion when he was serving in New Guinea. He told us that the shrapnel was still inside his back too close to his spine to be removed. He told us how the ''Fuzzy Wuzzy's'' carried him down the mountains after he was wounded and how sad he felt that he couldn't repay them with cigarettes, as was the custom, as he didn't smoke. He told us that there is a place named after him in New Guinea to commemorate the place where he was wounded. He told us that he knew his cousin had been killed because, while he was recuperating in hospital, he was given his cousin's parcel from home. Whenever a soldier died his parcels were shared out amongst the patients. Later, just years before he died he started telling my brothers other things about the war. He told them how his mother kept vigil outside his bedroom door when he came home at the end of the war. She listened for when he'd call out with nightmares and be there to reassure him. He told them about mates who were killed.

As children he never let any of the atrocities of the war affect the way we lived. He was a gentle soul at heart and I can imagine the war was awful for him. I can imagine why he didn't talk about it for so long and why he would want to talk about it as he neared his own death.

Dad never, ever glorified war. To dad the Dawn Service was always a tribute to his army mates. In the beginning a gathering of those still living to talk and remember, and at the last, remebering all those gone before him.

I haven't been to a Dawn Service since dad died. It wouldn't be the same. I would  just be too sad.

ANZAC Day 2013
They shall not grow 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

                                                          LEST WE FORGET


  1. Beautifully written and lovely memories.
    Lest we forget.

  2. Thanks for sharing your memories Kate, it was beautifully written. My Dad also served in New Guinea during WWII however he was in the RAAF. Unlike your father my Dad never marched in Anzac Day parades or attended services. He told the occasional story about his time in the air force but mostly he didn't want to remember or relive that period. I guess we all deal with situations in different ways. I have my Dad's medals, service book, discharge papers and other bits and pieces. Even though Dad rarely discussed the war he still kept all these items and I will always cherish them.

  3. My grandfather was in the NZAF as ground support in the islands. He did tell lots of stories but only the amusing/funny ones. I have a box of shells he sent my mum from a place called Emirau up near the equator. It destroyed his health pretty much.

    viv in nz

  4. We will remember, lest we forget.

  5. i went to the dawn service this morning at cardiff with Scott and Evan and thought about pop the whole time and again when we passed the breakfast place, thinking about those ice creams. i also wondered who has pops metals because if we as a little family are going to do this every year i would love for Evan to wear them in pops honour. that's if no one else is. lest we forget. love rhonnie

  6. I've been thinking of both our Dads today. Mine was in the Air Force and didn't talk about it very much at all either. Another gentle soul, it must have been a terrible shock for them to be a part of such an experience. Then I think of the Vietnam war and conscription and how I would feel if any of my sons were called up in such a way.

    Anzac Day served as a reminder of those who lost their lives but also to reconnect with the ones who would understand those unspeakable experiences.

  7. That was so beautiful Kate,it moved me to tears,thank you for sharing:)

  8. This moved me immensely, I was unable to go to the dawn service this year, something just didn't feel right, but all the memories I just experienced ready this was perfect. Lest We forget. Sarah x

  9. A very moving post Kate. My husband always goes to the dawn service and this year we thought Jessie who just turned 7 would be old enough to go so we all went. It's a very emotional service especially when they play The Last Post.
    Thanks for sharing Kate.