|They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
(For the Fallen, 3rd verse by Laurence Binyon, English poet, September 1914).
The tall, strong, tanned Australian soldiers marching off to war. These rugged ’bronzed’ volunteers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), World War One (WW1), who became known as ‘Diggers’, have been immortalised: in bronze and brass, granite and marble, concrete and stone, timber and steel in the form of cenotaphs, monuments and on honour rolls.
Their names etched there upon forevermore, for all generations to know they were from this area/district and to acknowledge their service and sacrifice, with respectful remembrance. Also avenues of honour throughout Australia.
Displayed throughout the Australian landscape in honour of their wartime deeds of sacrifice, endurance, courage and mateship in foreign lands. The first memorial erected was in South Terrace, Adelaide, in 1916. Also, at Armadale, WA. Later as others appeared, the Australian Government declared, “no more monuments”; money to build them was money required/needed for the ‘war effort’. In response, the mourning people planted trees which cost ‘ten bob’/ten shillings each. Avenues of Honour then started to line streets and parks right across all states.
Many of our ‘Aussie Boys’ died on the battlefield, in casualty clearing stations and hospitals ‘over-there’, went down with their ship at sea and in aerial ‘dog-fights’/combat or shattered aerodromes. Their bodies/remains are buried in cemeteries nearby, some have no known grave on land or sea, and then there were atrocious prisoners of camps too.
Later, on many WW1 memorials, WW2 service personnel had their names added, for they remained ‘over there’ also, too far from mourning relatives to visit.
The local memorials, therefore, were a form of closure for the grieving families.
The Korean War and later conflicts have been added to some memorials as well.
Dimboola’s War Memorial is the Dimboola Memorial Secondary College (DMSC) with granite honour rolls: WW1, WW2, Korean War, Matron Paschke sundial memorial, WW2 gates (Ellerman St.) and Information board. The Avenue of Honour lines the eastern section of ANZAC Drive, both sides, and the extension, at DMSC.
Australian and New Zealand troops were highly regarded as courageous fighting frontline soldiers in World War One (WW1). ‘Colonials’ as they were referred to according to opinions of some Generals in British High Command; derogatory term /unwitting ignorance.
They suffered heavy casualties in combat during many victories for The Allies with perseverance against colossal odds.
However, General Sir Edmund Allenby was one to whom these Aussies and Kiwis (NZ) troops were a different ‘breed’/type of men; tenacious, resolute, and resourceful. They had gained his respect, proving their worth as elite soldiers at the frontline. General Allenby said, “...they have earned the gratitude of the Empire and the admiration of the world”.
So too for our doctors and nurses in WW1 carried out their duties of treating and comforting dying, wounded, sick and injured personnel under hazardous, awkward and uncomfortable conditions with dedication and compassion. Some of the conditions were: being exposed to gunfire, air raids, extreme weather: hot, cold, wet, less than adequate nursing facilities and medical supplies, and rough living quarters. Many nurses and doctors were casualties of war also: killed or died of wounds, diseases and illnesses. They too were subjected to horrors/’demons’ which would be continuing torment.
They too remained buried on foreign soil, and some were lost at sea. Their names being recorded on the war memorials also.
Dimboola faithfully remembers Matron (Major) Dorothy Paschke. She was one of twelve nurses lost at sea, believed drowned. They were aboard the ‘Vyner Brook’, which was sunk by Japanese bombs in Banka Strait, off Sumatra, on February 15th, 1942. Other surviving nurses were massacred by Japanese soldiers on Banka Island.
The Paschke Memorial is a sundial at DMSC, and local nurses lay a wreath at the memorial each ANZAC Day service.
Since WW1 and until the present day, at all times of conflict/war/peace-keeping around the world, Australian defence and medical personnel have been and continue to be regarded as people to call upon for their special attributes of dependability, ingenuity and resilience.
The living conditions of WW1 were another battle/challenge for men in combat zones, particularly soldiers at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. They had to endure hardships, hazards and unbearable conditions for periods during their time at the fighting front for the duration of the war. Can you imagine living with: waterlogged and/or dry, dusty, cramped trenches with extremes of temperatures - hot and cold, sunburn and frostbite; disease; pestilence: rats, mice, lice, fleas, flies; itch and rashes; worn and torn uniforms; limited means of warmth; inadequate rations and lack of nourishing food, poor quality drinking water; long hours on duty/sleep deprivation; indifferent sanitation; stench and death all around. That is enough to stretch anyone’s morale, resolve and sanity !?, all the while being shot at! Great relief when orders for withdrawal for rest and regroup behind the battle lines. Even a period of furlough to lift one’s spirits.
It would have been similar for the blokes involved in the desert campaigns. The Light Horsemen also had their mount/horse to consider as well.
Although as the century moved on in time, the armed forces ‘lot’ gradually improved, certainly with ration packs and generally better nutrition. As for geographic conditions, that depended on where in the world defence forces were stationed.
The loss/death of mates/friends in battle or having died in their arms was another challenge for those dealing with war suffering. Australian ex-Vietnam War soldier Lachlan Irvine described the loss/grief of a real good mate in a poem he wrote: “He Was a Mate” (eight verses).
“....how’s a bloke supposed to deal with this ?”. He asks himself, “... nowhere in their training do you learn - How to live with the loss of a real good mate,”; he knows something is wrong, he’s quite sure,
“...a soldier can’t afford to feel this way, He’s got to grit his teeth and carry on.”
A confronting dilemma for combat personnel faced with that situation.
Many veterans returned to Australia with various ‘demons’ as an unwelcome company. These were, and are, the horrific and haunting memories that stay with them from their war experience. Dreaded dreams/nightmares, screams of anguish at night, as the horrors stork them in the dark. A real darkness that has been described: just won’t go away.
A huge adjustment was confronting for many Veterans with lingering wounds, injuries, blindness and amputees dealing with their changed way of life and trauma.
The trauma of war service-men and women torn apart in heart, in mind and in soul, from doing their part. Described as post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD - life-altering experience. Known as shell shock during WW1, also called battle fatigue.
PTSD: Dis-ease/disorder of the mind psychologically traumatised, disturbed by war, brutal, deadly combat; living a life of extreme stress/trauma. Indicated by depression, suicide, mental and physical abuse, substance abuse, extreme anger, detachment from society, and detachment from emotion, especially feelings.
Suicide/taking one’s own life was prevalent following WW1 amongst ex-servicemen.
They were terrorised by their war experience, losing a mate(s), unable to cope with their impairment(s)/disabilities, loss of dignity, having difficulty to provide and survive, unemployment, and the ‘demons’ just wouldn’t go away. Also, WW2 and every conflict since.
My grandfather, Major Charles Venden Rees, MC, returned from WW1 on April 25th, 1919.
He served on the Western Front for three and a half years as commander of an artillery battery. He spent lots of time out of action in 1918 on repatriation leave due to being twice wounded and shell shock. Whilst on leave in January 1918, Grandfather received his Military Cross (MC) from King George V at Buckingham Palace, London.
He relocated in 1925 to Townsville, Qld, with his wife and two young sons. Leaving the Public Works Department in Brisbane to set up his own architecture practice.
His own mental depression apparently was a cause for concern, coinciding with the business ‘downturn’ and then the 1929 worldwide economic/financial depression.
Grandfather mysteriously disappeared at sea between Townsville and Magnetic Island in July 1931. Another unaccounted casualty of WW1.
During a research visit to Rookwood Cemetery, Petersham (Sydney), in 2011, I was strolling through the Anglican section where numerous Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) headstones stood out. The year dates on several were 1929 to 1931, the start of the Great Depression. The same years appeared on many of the remaining CWGC headstones. Then it dawned on me that all these men were most probably trauma victims of their war horrors, more unaccounted WW1 casualties.
Sad, such a very moving moment for me. Realisation of the true nature of what I was seeing; this was just one section in one Australian public cemetery. Wow!
Unemployment was a predicament encountered by thousands of men returning to Australia from WW1. Public Works (Government) projects/schemes were created. The construction of the Great Ocean Road was such a scheme. Built with pick and shovel, horse and cart. Aided by explosives to dislodge the large amounts of rock and soil to be relocated.
Agriculture Soldier Settlement Schemes were established in all states, with mixed outcomes.
That’s a complete story on its own.
Returning WW2 men faced the same circumstances, and similar schemes were set up.
War came to Australia with the Japanese aerial attack on Darwin on February 19th, 1942.
Other northern towns were also attacked until November 1943. This was a traumatic and worrying time for civilians and defenders alike. Those aerial onslaughts of death and destruction left mental scars for many too.
The real facts of what was happening at Darwin were suppressed by the Australian Government to avoid panic by the general populace, it was reasoned.
War psychological and spiritual damage has consequences of a massive scale. What is the cost?
Neglectful ignorance to forget devotion to duty, service to our nation, and individual sacrifices made FOR US, on battlefields of land, sea and sky, also as prisoners of war services personnel have lost their lives, had their existence shortened or become handicapped, we remember them as gallant, brave people who did what was asked of them, some did more, they stepped up to play their part.
Therefore we should not demean the memory of those who gave so much of themselves.
“It should matter to us as it did matter to them , those who fought and bled and died for a cause not often known to them”. (Author unknown)
Just cause, Justice, Freedom, Liberty — the reasons why.
“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.”
(4th verse, For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon. Adopted by the RSL: known as the Ode).
May we and our ancestors prove worthy of their sacrifice. (From: ANZAC Requiem).
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget.
LEST WE FORGET.
Footnote: There is much, much more to tell about the human misery resulting from being exposed to war. I’ve just scratched the surface to try to explain why — The Reason for LEST WE FORGET.