I have finally accepted that I am a member of a dwindling group of WW2 veterans. I am unhappy when articles or newspaper reports use the term “War Heroes”. I am no hero – I won no medals for bravery, I wasn’t mentioned in dispatches.
As a humble cog in a vast machine, I patched up guys, picked up crashed pilots, looked after ill people, tried to help someone shivering with malaria.
We have completed activities for ANZAC Day. The time has long gone when expressions of patriotism or jingoism were common. In reality, soldiers of many nations weren’t fighting for Australia, Britain, NZ – they were fighting for survival at ANZAC Cove.
A common phrase is used: ‘They gave their lives for King, country, flag etc’ – they didn’t give, they had it taken away.
In some strange way, ANZAC Day represents a defeat, a retreat – not a glorious victory.
As one ANZAC solider said, referring to his fallen comrades “I hope they don’t hear us marching back to the beaches”!
The whole earth is the memorial to the fallen. Monuments may arise and tablets be set up to them, but on far-off shores there is an abiding monument that no pen or chisel has traced. It is graven not in stone or brass but on the living hearts of humanity.
A Greek, named Pericles, about 450BC, gave a message to the people of Athens, consoling them about those slain in battle. “wherefore, I will not condole with the parents and relatives of the dead, I will rather bid them – lift up their hearts”.