Tag Archives: ANZAC

1800. Army training

Today is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and Australia. It’s the day when we remember those fallen in wars. Ironically, the date is on the day of the greatest failure and loss of life in our common history: Gallipoli. Since I’m writing this reflection a good three and a half weeks before the posting date, goodness knows whether the pandemic will allow any public commemoration of the day. The day usually starts with Dawn Services at various cenotaphs.

Also, the number of this posting is Story 1800, and as with most “round numbers”, I usually relate something more personal – if I can think of something (which I just have!)

When I started high school (it was a boys’ boarding school because we lived too far in the countryside to travel daily to a high school) it was not that long since the end of World War II. Hence, as part of the school curriculum, there was military training. We called it “Barracks”. Every Wednesday there would be “Barracks”. And then, twice a year there would be “Barracks Week”.

I hated it.

We were issued with “Sandpaper Suits”, i.e. shorts, jacket, and beret, made of rough fabric, which with all the marching simply sandpapered your groin into oblivion. Every night the dormitories reeked of “Brasso” as everyone polished the brass buttons on their uniform.

I hated it.

My paternal grandfather (Boer War)

We would march and march and march. It was drill drill drill. The high school was just down the road from the country’s largest military camp, and army personnel would come to drill us and shout at us and order us hither and yon. Sometimes we seemed to stand still in the hot sun for hours. I learnt to obey everything with half an ear but my mind retreated into a world of make-believe. If I spied a lone distant house on a hill I would invent its rooms, its view, its story. Or if I saw a bird I would fly to its nest and concoct its life.

My maternal grandfather (World War I)

During Barracks Week we were given guns and had to ponce around with them in various positions. Then we were taken “down to the river bed” where we shot at targets all afternoon and (I would imagine) I mainly missed.

I hated it.

Occasionally we would decorate ourselves with flora and crawl through muddy creeks and prickly hedgerows to fire blanks at opposing army personnel. It was to turn boys into men.

I hated it.

My mother’s brother (World War II) – he didn’t come back

Once a year we would go on “Bivouac”. We were herded into army trucks and transported deep into the mountains where we would set up camp in the middle of the forest, sharing with another the single canvas ground sheet (one sheet on the ground and one above). From there we would eat our rations and set a watch all night because the army was going to attack. And attack they always did, usually around 3 in the morning.

I hated it.

A school photo but I’m not in it! – shows building, rifles, uniform

Barracks continued for all five years of high school (in New Zealand high school roughly goes from age 13 to 17). It was discipline without mercy. I guess if I had been called up for war I would have gone, but the military experience taught me one thing:

to hate myself.

Today as we remember the “fallen heroes of the past” no doubt some liked the compulsory military experience and some did not. Personally I feel most for those who died fighting for our freedom…

… and hating every minute of it.

Some graves at Gallipoli

1035. Uncle Kemp

Today in Australia and New Zealand it is ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and is on the anniversary of the greatest defeat at Gallipoli during WWI. The day celebrates the memory of all fallen soldiers and those who served.

I want to tell you a fairly silly thing about my great-uncle, Kemp Scrimshaw, who served in the First World War. He was called Uncle Kemp, although his real name was William Hector. I never knew him, but I happen to live today in the same town in which he died. So every ANZAC Day I visit his grave in the Veterans’ Cemetery and place a poppy on it. Such are the everyday people living ordinary lives, who served in brutal wars…

My older brothers and sisters knew him. He worked in a factory that made lollies. (We call them lollies – some countries call them candy and some sweets and some bonbons and some confectionary and so on.) Anyway, Uncle Kemp worked in a lolly factory after the First World War and always brought my brothers and sisters lots and lots of lollies! Lots of lovely lollies!

I think of his kindness every ANZAC Day when I place the poppy. You see, his grave is only a few feet away from the entrance to the biggest lolly factory in the country!

May he, and all who served, rest in peace.

928. Off to the war!

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(Today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand).

Mrs W. Picton was hostess on Saturday evening at a delightful farewell dance for soldiers off to the war. Eleven of the soldiers farewelled were her grandsons. What a proud moment for the family!

A large number of town and country visitors met and enjoyed the hospitality of the Picton Estate. Dancing took place in the billiards room, which was artistically decorated for the occasion, and supper was served in the dining-room during an interval in the dancing.

Miss Macdonald’s orchestra supplied the latest dance music.

Mrs Picton wore a handsome gown of electric blue charmeuse, embroidered in beads in harmonious colours. She was assisted in her duties as hostess by her two daughters, Miss Picton and Miss Barbara Picton. A son and his wife, Mr and Mrs Ralph Picton, who are in town for the races, were also present.

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Her youngest son and ten of her grandsons never returned from war.

562. At the wharf

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(It is 100 years today since the battle of Gallipoli. Today Australia and New Zealand remember their war dead – ANZAC Day).

When Jamie’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Ronald’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When John’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Maurice’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Matthew’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Philip’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Richard’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Felix’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Irwin’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Denis’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Stanley’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Gavin’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When George’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When David’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Edmund’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Wallace’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Robert’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Cameron’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Donald’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
When Harvey’s mother waved goodbye, she knew.
They were never coming back.

197. ANZAC Day

© Bruce Goodman 25 April 2014

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Jane’s husband had died when the sons were children. Now it was 1916. The three sons were fighting a war in Europe, but she didn’t know exactly where.

Jane was looking after son Richard’s farm. When her three sons left New Zealand for war overseas, she said she’d manage Richard’s farm. What a learning experience! She’d never milked a cow in her life. She’d never shorn a sheep or ploughed a field.

Then came the news of her first son to die, Henry. Jane was grief stricken, but went on farming Richard’s farm. Now she wore black.

Then came the news of her second son to die, George. Jane was grief stricken, but went on farming Richard’s farm. She would have the farm running well for him when he came home from war.

Then came the news of her third son to die, Richard. All children gone. There were no graves to visit – too far away and overseas; no funerals to attend.

Jane went out to milk the cow and feed the chickens. How still the summer morning. How long the days to come.