The Spirit Lives On

Early this morning, April 25, more people than usual were up early. What’s more, they were all walking past my house. Where were they going?

If April 25 holds any significance for you, I won’t have to tell you.

The Dawn Service – April 25

At the end of my street is a memorial to Australia’s and New Zealand’s fallen soldiers in war, and April 25 is named, Anzac Day, because of them.

When WWI was declared, many young men, fathers, brothers, sons, signed up as soldiers, volunteering to fight with their Allies in Europe. Many of them faked their age so that the armed forces would accept them for duty. The youngest volunteer was James Martin, a mere 14 years and 3 months old.

James Martin, along with my Great Uncle, were amongst the Australian and New Zealand soldiers, who briefly trained for open desert warfare, prior to travelling to the Dardanelles near Turkey, and came to be known as ‘Anzacs.’

veterans

‘Anzacs’, because they were the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Anzacs because they fought for 8 months in the hellhole campaign that was steep cliff faces and filthy trenches in a place, known as Gallipoli. 8,141 Australians died at Gallipoli and thousands more were injured. Including my Great Uncle ‘Ted’ – Edward Russell.

Many of Australia’s finest, strongest and youngest men were fatally wounded, including one called James Martin, then just 15 years old.

This was not the worst battle in the war. Many more men died on the battlefields in France. Yet the Anzac ‘diggers’ and this spirit represents a special place in the hearts of Australians. They are the most venerated. Anzac day and its tradition of remembrance of them, becomes more popular each and every year.

Gympie

We have few real traditions in our country. Perhaps this is the reason we cling to Anzac Day as it binds our nation together as a community?

Perhaps it is the stories of the death of such a young man as James Martin, the loss of such youthful promise, that brings home to each and every one of us, the enduring horror and consequences of war. Such senseless loss.

The following poem and haunting bugle tune never fails to brings tears to my eyes. In the tune, the bugle player summons the troops to assemble; the bugle calls them once, twice, three times, but the fallen soldiers do not come, nor do they answer.

Anzac day commemorates all servicemen and women who served in conflicts, not just those who died. To honour those who paid the supreme sacrifice, we stand in silence, after the reading of the Ode and the Last Post is played.

Anzac biscuits
Anzac biscuits – these were sent to the troops in Gallipoli by family

And what of James Martin’s family, living far away from the battlefields, in Australia? How did they cope without the boy they once held safe, in their arms?

A mother grieving a lost son; a Father who’d never have a beer or teach his son how to fix a broken car; a brother or sister who’d no longer feel the camaraderie between siblings as they grow, a schoolkid who’d lost his mate, and finally the boy himself, who’d never grow old enough, to become a man.

Every armed conflict and terrorist act, hurts more than just nations, soldiers and civilians, but the raw horror and loss cast a long and painful shadow far and wide.

James, like so many other soldiers gave up his tomorrows, so that we could enjoy today.

War is deeply woven into human history. Organized society and conflict appear to have marched side by side, each affecting the other. Wars have changed societies in many ways but changes in society have also affected the nature of war.

https://rst.org.au/prof-margaret-macmillan-war-and-the-making-of-the-modern-world-friday-10th-august-2018-600-pm-stanley-burbury-theatre-utas/

Have we yet learned the lesson fighting has for us?

wreath veterans

Lest We Forget

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22 thoughts on “The Spirit Lives On

  1. Even though it is reality that folks die, it is ever so heart wrenching when someone is lost especially in or before their prime. The loss is potential life is very hard to comprehend and come to terms with. We expect to live for three score years plus ten at least and if we don’t, we feel cheated and ask why? This is life, but we still can’t seem to wrap our heads around death, do we, Marlene?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Both Anzac, and Remembrance Day have evolved to be about so much more than WW1. There have been so many wars since, and both days give us pause to remember, and reflect. There have been so many lives ruined, and as you rightly pointed, along with the death of each soldier, a family has lost part of itself. And this happens to both sides. Countless lives destroyed, either directly, or by association. Will mankind never learn!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You encapsulate the problem precisely, Chris. I was told the same words at the end of a tour of Auschwitz. Will mankind ever learn? It seems not. Perhaps we dont live long enough to develop that wisdom?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think these thoughts are more real and worrying when we have young children and we are concerned for what lies ahead for them. I remember the Gulf War broke out soon after my eldest son was born. At the time, there was a lot of hype around Saddam Hussein and his “unleash the mother of all wars” rhetoric. It was frightening times. Conflict is never fun, and there are only ever losers. Thanks for your comment, Snow. I cried about James Martin too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw many posts about Anzac Day on social media on the 25th but didn’t know what it was about. Thank you for writing about it, now I know more! My own son just turned 15 years old, so the young soldier’s story rings home. We are lucky our children don’t have to go to war, in many places around the world even younger children are engaging in fighting at this very minute. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good point, Suvi. Child soldiers are widespread in parts of Africa and the Middle east, sadly. It is sad about Jim Martin and these childrens’ lives that are essentially stolen from them. Tragic. Indeed we are fortunate it children do not live that way. Let us hope it stays like this. Children need to grow up in security and safety in order to develop psychologically, don’t you think?

    Liked by 1 person

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