A bit belated, but here’s another post for our Aussie brethren for Remembrance Day.
In Australia and many Allied nations of the First World War, November 11 is celebrated as Remembrance Day, which recognises the moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front in 1918. This moment has become universally associated with the remembrance of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflict. In the U.S., this day is celebrated as Veterans Day, which is set aside to thank and honour all of those who have served honourably in the military. Despite the slight differences, the overarching sentiment of the day is to recognise the men and women who have served their nation as well as those who gave all in doing so.
As the longest war in modern history winds down, the world is again gearing up to face a new and protracted conflict in the Middle East. The “war to end all wars” sobriquet of World War I was a fanciful appellation which, in the years proceeding, has unfortunately proved to be anything but true. Like so many others, I only have to look through my family lineage to see the generations affected by subsequent wars since the Armistice was declared on 11 November, 1918.
I come from a proud family of veterans who served in both of the Great Wars, with my great grandfather having fought with the 1st Pioneer Battalion, 13th Reinforcement, Australian Imperial Force during the First World War. During his one year and 27 days deployed, he sustained gunshot wounds during one battle and was repatriated for medical treatment, only to return to the battle front where he became a gas casualty and was repatriated for a second and final time.
My great grandfather died in 1956, and although I never met him, we both share the same privileged status of being war veterans. I have found myself on many occasions thinking about the hardships that our Great War veterans endured, and I often wish that I had the chance to trade stories and share experiences with my great grandfather.
Knowing pieces of his story, I also know that there was so much more he never disclosed to anyone upon his return to Australia. The type of warfare and the conditions under which we fought our respective wars could not be further apart. Along with its nomenclature of “the war to end all wars,” World War I has also been labeled the “War of Nerves” due to the extensive psychological damages that the conflict became synonymous for inflicting. Hearing the stories of his deterioration were a testament to the physical and mental afflictions that he brought home with him.
Despite the obvious differences, I’ve no doubt that we would have found some common ground to discuss key similarities between our individual experiences. The camaraderie, the mateship, the sacrifice, the highs, the lows, the sense of purpose, pride, and achievement are but a few familiar sentiments which transcend both time and conflict. Australia has a very long history of shunning the relative safety of its geographical location and committing its military personnel and resources to deal with global threats.
Australia’s collective identity and national character are steeped in the ANZAC legend, and Remembrance Day is a day to pay homage to those both past and present who have died or suffered in all wars and armed conflict. It is a day to celebrate what it means to be Australian and to pay our respects to those who have displayed courage, endurance, initiative, discipline, and mateship in the defence of our nation and all that we stand for.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.