Storms and memories of past wars

Storms and memories of past wars

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What a day! And it is only 1pm.

Started off at 6am standing outside in torrential rain getting electricity flowing back into the house. My wonderful 1940s cottage has an exterior fuse box. The rain and wind guaranteed absolute soaking within a minute. This storm striking Sydney is horrid. The local beaches are losing their sand to the nearby roads, trees are being blown down, roads and train lines are shut and the news is full of stories of struggles and tragedy. My friend Adrian at Dungog is at the heart of disaster. That town has seen houses floating down streets on flood waters (just Google Dungog and storms) and people dying. I guess I am getting off lightly. Albeit my studio is somewhat wrecked.

Work contacted me and advised that I stay at home. So here I am.

This said, Rhiannon had to go to school because they were having a ceremony of remembrance for fallen soldiers. For those readers not of Australia, we have a tradition called ANZAC Day (25th of April) where we remember the fallen. Because this falls on a Saturday this year the school had their ceremony a few days earlier.  We trekked through the pelting rain, getting saturated as we did so, to get to her school. There we had a returned soldier give a talk, and several children spoke about relatives who had fought. One girl was particularly brave because she had family on both sides of the last World Wars and she spoke about the losses to ordinary people both in Australia and in Germany. Rhiannon was too shy to talk about our family and the wars, but she was part of a choir that got up and sang. Here is an appropriately blurred picture so no children can be identified but you can still get a feel for the occasion:

remembersong

Because Rhiannon was too shy to get up and talk about the soldiers in her family, I thought that I would take a moment here to speak about them.

My paternal grandfather was Vernon Worrell Long. Despite long hard searches through records I can find nothing of his war record. All I know is what the family has passed down to me. This is that he was a “runner” in World War One. Essentially, that is the soldier who runs between groups amidst the trenches to deliver communications. I was also told that he was gassed during action. He appears in the picture below, I think as the young man on the right:

longfamily

My maternal grandfather was Edward William Arthur Males. He joined the Royal Engineers as a sapper on 26 May 1915 at the age of 30. On 24 August 1916 he was digging trenches and laying wire in No Man’s Land during the Battle of the Somme. As best I can figure it from family stories, his position came under artillery attack and he more or less had his leg blown off. The officer instructed the others to leave him for dead, but his mates refused a direct order and rescued him. Here is a picture of my grandfather with other ex-soldiers. He is the one-legged man on the left.

ewmales

I never knew either of my grandfathers, though I am proud of them. I did meet some of my uncles who fought in World War Two (three sailors and a marine). I gather from them that war is not heroic or an adventure: its just something that happens and everyone does their best to survive and look after each other. Thank goodness I never experienced it!

So I sat in a school hall, soaking wet from my walk there, listening to children speak of soldiers’ tales and genuinely hoped that none of them would ever have to go through war.

In the words of Rudyard Kipling: “Lest we forget”.

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4 Comments


  1. OMG I looked at the storms – wow, crazy weather. I trust you will be able to repair your studio, and that your friend is one of the relatively unscathed of Dungog, though it sounds like most will be affected in at least some way.

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    1. Thanks :) Adrien says he fared a lot better than others and even still has electricity. Mind you, his descriptions of the impact upon others makes it sound really quite bad. :( As for my studio, I should be able to clean it up but not too soon. My daughter’s 11th birthday party is coming up in a fortnight and I need to put priority into getting the house and back garden in good nick for that. Oh well, more time to plan that painting! LOL :)

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  2. This is a wonderful post. Thank you. War is something that very few of us can imagine anymore; it appears to be outside of us, though it is still happening, sadly, all of the time. My grandfather was part of World War Two and wrote a biography before he died entitled “From Shoebox to Rockets”. At his book signing I also got a signed copy of his friend’s book “My War With Japan”. I feel very privileged to know these true stories. I also hope history will never repeat itself.

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    1. Thank you so much for that comment :) I agree totally. But knowing human beings, war is here to stay :( I looked up the book but could not find much about it other than its sale price :( Hope to hear more from you. Greg :)

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