Friday, April 24, 2009

Anzac Day

Tomorrow is Anzac Day, which New Zealanders know all about of course. For those of you outside NZ, it commemorates the first landings of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli during World War I. The battle of Gallipoli was a failure for the Allied Forces and troops were evacuated 8 months later after heavy losses.

You know, I am as wholesome as the next Mum. I don't give my children toy guns to play with and I don't approve of war games, but I couldn't be prouder of my two grandfathers, both of whom went to WWI and fought at Paschendale, the Somme, and Gallipoli. This was my mother's father, Douglas Rawei McLean. He was a machine gunner. He went first to Gallipoli, and then to France, fighting at the Somme. He returned to NZ at the end of the war in one piece, his only enduring injury being a piece of shrapnel lodged in his skull, which made the hair surrounding that part turn white.

We still have his letters, certificates, leave notices, postcards, and photos from the army. This morning I was reading the letter in which he describes the fateful moment of his injury.

"Last Wednesday when were were in the (censored) a bomb landed between the chap on my left and myself. I dived for the corner but was not quite quick enough and got a piece in the back of my head. It pulled up against the bone and I've suffered only a slight wound which does not prevent me from carrying on. There is some consolation in having a thick head after all."

Good to see he kept his sense of humour throughout!

It's a sad, sad thing, reading through his letters. All those sons, brothers, and fathers who didn't come home.

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  1. Hey! Sure enough, it's on my calendar! How about that? What a handsome picture. Thank you for sharing with us!

  2. Gosh when I see that photo I can really see a family likeness - just a familiarity around the eyes. So sad, war, so much loss, so unnecessarily.

    On a more positive note, your photos on your blog are getting more and more beautiful.

  3. (Well, I don't want to be too proud or anything, but I actually DID read about Anzac Day in the NZ library books. Excuse me while I enjoy a quiet selfish moment of smugness for the simple reason that I actually knew something.)

    But in seriousness, thank-you for sharing this. Its hard to imagine what they went through, isn't it?Just last evening I talked to an older gentlemen who was a veteran and he got wet eyes remembering the friends he lost so so long ago. I got the feeling it still seemed like yesterday to him.

  4. One of the things I find kind of weird is that my kids will have no connection / experience of any living relative involved WW1 or 2. I wonder how this affects their understanding of the whole thing? (not that I profess to having any great understanding, but y'know what i mean. It just makes it that one more step removed.)
    I'm actually contemplating taking them to the dawn service tomorrow. Will see how we go, though ;-)

    Lovely post, btw :-)


  5. Lovely post. DD and I are going to the dawn parade tomorrow,I suspect thereafter I will have to explain the insane-ness that is war.

    Thanks for sharing

  6. We live near the National War Memorial, so are heading to the carillon recital there this afternoon. I figure we'd be hearing it anyway, it'll be nice to see it up close