Six word Saturday: ANZAC Day remembrance, families at war

Snapshot of war: amongst the family photos, a few of those who served in the military and a letter from George VI to the children of Great Britain.

Snapshot of war: amongst the family photos, a few of those who served in the military and a letter from George VI to the children of Great Britain.

As the boy-child becomes a man, I find myself reflecting on the suffering of my grandmothers and great grandmothers whose sons went off to war. My family seems to have been particularly blessed in that all but one of our men who served in World War I or II returned. My great grandfather was wounded in WWI, and lost a leg, but lived until 1970, raising five children and celebrating over 60 years of marriage to my great grandmother.

The Big T’s great grandmother was less fortunate. Both her sons joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in WWI, but only one- the Big T’s grandfather Wallace Gray – returned, wounded and weakened by illness. His younger brother Eric Gray was killed in March 1918 in the third battle of the Somme. Like so many Kiwis, he is buried thousands of miles from home in a Commonwealth War Cemetery, at Martinsart in the Somme Valley.

Yesterday, my friend Alix sent me this, the words of a speech delivered in 1934 by Kemal Atatürk, first President of the Republic of Turkey, to the families of British, Australian and New Zealand troops who visited the battlefields of Galipolli:

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.

These words are also inscribed on the memorial to fallen soldiers at ANZAC Beach in Galipolli, and also on memorials in Canberra, Australia and Wellington, NZ.

Today I’m thinking of all the mothers who have ever waved sons off to war  and waited in almost unbearable anxiety for them to return – or not.

I know this isn’t six words, but it’s my Saturday.



32 thoughts on “Six word Saturday: ANZAC Day remembrance, families at war

  1. I’m the same…I always think of the women – mothers waiting for that horrific telegram, or phone call to learn that they won’t see their boy (even if he’s a man) again.

    Beautiful photos and documents. 🙂

  2. My mother spent quite a lot of time at Hororata during WWll because her uncle and aunt owned a small shop there. She also went to dances in Hororata which I think were organised for service personnel. Lovely to see the letter to the children from King George. I don’t know how the mothers managed because some, like my great grandmother, had already experienced the loss of a precious child through natural causes. Perhaps they were more stoic than I could ever be. A lovely post. Thank you.

    • Thank you. My father-in-law’s family owned the garage in Hororata, and there are quite a few members of the extended whanau in St John’s churchyard. I think we are a very privileged generation; our grandmothers survived through so much and seemed to do so without victim support and counselling. I’m not knocking those things; I’m must amazed at our wonderful, stoic ancestors.

  3. Beautifully written, and beautiful sentiments. No matter where you live in the world, families suffer whenever a family member is sent to fight in a war.

    • Thank you. When my son was little he asked if I would always love him, and I told him that when children are born there is a magic switch that turns on permanent unconditional love, and that it can never be turned off. Being a practical little soul, he spent some time trying to figure out ways that such a switch could be turned off, but finally came to accept that it just was, and that I would always love him.

    • Yes, it would. For generations past, it was a common occurence, and there are too many places in the world today where mothers are watching their children leave the house to protest or form militias, not knowing if they will return.

  4. Thought-provoking post for me because I’m an “Army brat.” My dad served in Korea and Vietnam and I was born on a military base in Germany. My German mother has a family history that is formed by wartime experiences and losses. You mention the stoicism of the people at that time and I couldn’t agree more. What people had to do to survive a war is unimaginable to most of us.

    • Wow! Your mother must be an amazing woman to cope with her husband being away at war twice, after her own and her familiy’s experiences.

      • Actually, to be correct, she didn’t know him during the Korean years. After Korea, he was sent to Germany and that’s where they met. Vietnam came ten years later. And yes, she is pretty amazing as most military wives are!

        • 🙂 I have a friend whose mother survived a Japanese internment camp in Java. She and her mother were there for two or more years, were released and discovered that her father had been held only a few miles away and had also survived. Such moments of joy amongst so much pain and death. My friend’s mother is still farming sheep in NZ!

  5. I’ve suggested it to my friend; I think as it’s her story, she would tell it so much better. But it’s definitely a story that should be told. 🙂

  6. Very well written. I think about this topic from time to time as well. My grandfather died in WWII when my Mom was just 3 months old. I wonder what her life would have been like if she had had her Dad in her life.

    • Thank you. Historically, so many children have grown up not knowing a parent – through war or sickness. Ours is a very privileged generation in so many ways. 🙂

  7. My best friend’s dad still going strong at 93 was at the Wellington event. After flying bombers and enduring a Japanese POW camp I guess old age is a doodle. Glad you wrote more that 6 words.

    • Thanks 🙂 The more I see of aging (parents, in-laws) the more convinced I am that hard work and facing up to adversity during life are vital to meaningful longevity. The folk I know in their 80s + who get up each morning with things to do – and do them – aren’t “old”, just experienced. Your friend’s dad sounds like a great bloke. May he, and others like him, carry on for as long as they feel like it.

    • I was thinking exactly that a few days ago when I heard about the result of the referendum in Turkey. The world needs a few more statesmen and women like Attaturk right now.

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