ANZAC Tribute

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Another ANZAC Day rolled around

Submitted: April 23, 2017

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Submitted: April 23, 2017



It was time to clean the medals again and Henry was there to help Granddad as he done for the past seven years. The family had spoken many times about Granddad’s unwillingness to talk about the war and Henry respected the old man’s privacy by trying to be good company whenever they paired up to clean the medals. Granddad applied the Silvo, leaving the cloudy coating for Henry to do the polishing with a dry cloth.

‘Polish ‘em good, Young’un,’ Granddad muttered, ‘you’ll be wearing ‘em tomorrow.’

Henry didn’t quite understand the meaning his of grandfather’s words.

‘Tomorrow’s ANZAC Day, Granddad,’ replied Henry, ‘so you’ll be wearing the medals.’

‘No, I’ll not be going to the parade this year. I said last year was me last.’ Granddad had a tear. ‘I’m too blimmin’ stiff and it’s getting’ hard on me. You’re going and wearing the medals, I’ve already spoken to your mother about it.’

The family had always gone to the dawn service and the Last Post always seemed to move young Henry. He always felt a surge of pride when he caught sight of his grandfather doing his best to march with a straight back among the other ex-servicemen. It never occurred to him that he would be doing the marching!

‘What’s wrong Granddad, why can’t you go?’ asked a concerned Henry.

‘I’m gettin’ past standin’ on me feet for so long, Young’un.’  The old man replied. ‘The bullet hole in me thigh gives me jip these days.’

‘Bullet hole!’ and remembering, Henry trailed off.

‘Yeah, I copped a Turkish bullet! It went through me thigh here and they think it left some of it’s casing on the bone.’ He showed Henry where.

Henry always wanted to know about Granddad during the war and was surprised that he had suddenly opened up.

‘Gee.’ was all he could muster.

‘It wasn’t bad for me.’ Mused the old man, ‘The bullet went right through and I was mended pretty smartly. But some of the other poor buggers were shot up badly! Legs and arms off – bloody awful. We used to reckon that it was the lucky ones that were shot dead!’

Mum, Dad and William closed in quietly because they had never heard the old man speak so, but he went silent, thinking. Henry just polished on giving his grandfather time.

‘Y’know the worst thing was the stink!’ he continued quietly. ‘We were stuck on those bloody rocks for nigh on eight months! Artillery and gunfire pinned us down. The poor dead rotted where they fell and were eaten by maggots and blimmin’ crows. We couldn’t dig enough holes for dunnies! There were thousands of us there, sick and with dysentery some of ‘em - there was nowhere to go.’

Henry felt he had to say something.

‘Shit,’ he said covering his mouth at the slip, ‘could you shoot back?’

‘Yeah, I think the Turks lost more'n us. They were Ottomans, but just bloody Turks to us.’ Replied Granddad. ‘Our wounded had guts though! One time I had four rifles that I had cadged up off-a dead’uns and I had two blokes with me, one a Maori chap. They were badly wounded and in terrible pain. The Maori chap had a leg missin’ and been hit in the neck. They reloaded the magazines and had the rifles ready while I was shootin’ at the Turks.’

‘Did you hit any?’ Henry couldn’t resist.

‘Dunno, couldn’t really see, maybe didn’t even hit land.’ Replied the old fellow. ‘The barrels got pretty hot after poppin’ off twenty or so rounds and the noise was deafening sometimes. Then it would go quiet and there would be the crack of a shot from a sniper. They were deadly bloody accurate killing straight out.’

‘You must have been brave, Granddad.’ Henry felt awed.

‘Bravery didn’t come into it son.’ The old man replied. ‘At first we thought we were on a paid adventure to Egypt, then to the Greek island of Lemnos. But once the Gallipoli Campaign started, the novelty soon wore off and it was fighting for survival and the survival of our mates – we did what we had to do. None of it was any good, just brutal.’ He added with sadness in his voice.

Mum stayed home with Granddad while the others went off to the dawn service. Henry proudly marched among the veterans, head held high, with his grandfather’s words ringing in his ears. He listened as the Padre spoke praising the fallen. He listened too as woman who had been a nurse during World War II spoke about her experience. There were wet eyes as she described the suffering and heartbreak she had witnessed. Her life and the lives of countless others was changed forever.

When they arrived home the doctor was there to confirm that Granddad had died. Mum said she was sitting with him and he gave one last, deep breath and was gone.

With reverence Henry replaced the medals, the only tangible part of Granddad left to him, in the drawer where they belonged.

‘Remember the war dead,’ he thought, ‘but we should remember also the wounded and the returned because they all suffered. Remember their families too.’

We will remember them!’ he said out aloud. 



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