I have become increasingly aware over time that the history of western culture is the story of white men. The explorers, the artists, the pioneers, the inventors, the conquerors, the settlers, the crusaders, the invaders – these are all the men of our history that we have chosen to define our place in the world over the course of recorded time. I know that this reflects our thinking in those eras but it doesn’t mean that other stories and contributions that were valid and important were not being made by others around the world. The remembering and celebration of only these stories is often done to the exclusion of all other histories.

I have been reflecting on these thoughts as we approach ANZAC Day. This year Ashleigh is less than one hours drive from Villers Brettoneux. There is an enormous Australian focus on the region this year. The Department of Veterans Affairs is holding commemoration ceremonies at the enormous memorial built to Australian soldiers. Thousands of Australian soldiers still rest in the area, many in unmarked graves. Many Australians are heading to the area to be there for the ceremonies on Friday. Ashleigh is one of them.

The stories of the soldiers are well known by Australians. We pause to remember them. We observe solemn rituals in their honour. These again are the stories of the men involved: our written history, the stories that we allow to define us. I believe that there is so much more to consider. Imagine the sacrifices made by those mothers who farewelled their young sons as they travelled the world to places unknown to them. Imagine the wives who stayed behind without the support of their husbands to carry on raising their children. Sometimes these women waited for a soldier who never returned. Sometimes they returned as broken men – with bodies that could heal, but with scars that could not be seen. Either way war creates dysfunction.

I do not say these things to denigrate the memory of those soldiers who fought. I say these things to broaden our definition of history. To remember the stories of sacrifice that were made by those who were often excluded from the decision making process, those who were frequently denied a public voice, yet who bore the tangible results of conflict. This year I will remember the soldiers, but I will also stop to think about those who stayed behind without information or contact, in fear and exclusion. They deserve to be remembered and thanked too.


My Grandad, in his last ever ANZAC march 25th April 1992.

Lest we forget.


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17 responses to “Reflections

  1. M

    Mothers bear the pain of war. I have always resolved to disappear into the desert to hide with my children should the need arise.

  2. soozadoo

    That picture of Grandad just made me tear up.

  3. Lots to think about here.

    And I will.

    Perhaps on a slightly superficial note but I bought a tin of Anzacs the other day. Because it depicts nurses. Women who served commemorated! I had to have a bit of that.

  4. That picture of your Grandad made me tear up too! When I think of sending away my boys or Fixit to a war it is too hideous to imagine. Like M, I would want to spirit them away.

  5. This is a good post.

    People forget, all too often, about the true cost of war. Whether a war is just or idiotic, it leaves behind a trail of broken humanity. Even when we are fortunate enough to get our loved ones back, they are irrevocably changed.

    Wonderful shot of your grandfather. Very hale and hearty looking.

  6. Thanks for sharing the photo of your grandfather.

    I agree that we tend to forget the sacrifices of those left behind: the rationing, the war effort, the grieving for those lost and for those injured. My grandparents were the generation in between the 2 world wars who didn’t serve either because they were too young or too old. Still, the war had a significant impact upon my father, in particular, who was very moved by the soldiers’ return. War affects families and communities.

    I am glad that Ashleigh will be able to participate in ANZAC ceremonies in France. This will be very meaningful for her.

    Lest we forget.

  7. I enjoyed that photograph – your grandad looks spirited and proud. Great post. War affects everybody. I am all for spiriting away, too 😦

  8. grandma

    I read this last night and had to close it down and walk away. The photo of my Dad is special. He loved Anzac Day and, as a child, I can remember him leaving home for the dawn service and coming home after dark – driving – and so drunk he could hardly walk. But that’s how he coped with his memories. He was gone less than 3 weeks after that photo was taken.

    For me the most poignant reminder of you words is in Geraldton WA. A memorial to HMAS Sydney stands on top of a hill. The Sydney went down off Geraldton in 1942 and was lost until a few weeks ago. The memorial includes a lifesize statue of a woman, holding the hand of a child, looking forever out to sea, waiting for her man to come home. It broke our hearts to see it.

    Thanks for the beautiful words, Tracey. The world needs to hear them. Can we highlight them and send them to world leaders?

  9. On ANZAC Day I try to remember all the people that the ripples of war affect.

    Thanks for a timely post and a wonderful pic of your Grandad. We should never forget.

  10. grandad

    I can only agree with what is written by Tracey and all of the replies.

    Been there, seen it, done it and not particularly proud of what transpired after Vietnam. What is normal to a military person is abnormal to others. I did not cry when my father died, yet sobbed like a baby when I saw the life ebbing out of one of the guys that I served with in Vietnam. War makes one hard and calculating, if you are not you do not survive. I feel it is so sad when I read of people who put up campaign medals to which they are not entitled. They could have had mine and my 2 years in Vietnam. The ribbons and medals mean nothing. I am so lucky that I have the family that I have and so lucky to have met Julie. M, many is the time that I wished I had never gone to Vietnam and in fact had run away to the desert. I am so glad that I finally acknowledged that the problem rested with me and a psychiatrist showed me the error of my ways. He also explained to me why I was like I was.

    I only wish that it could have occurred sooner. There are times now when I wonder why my family put up with my rages and mood swings.

    I marched on that day that was Joe’s last Anzac Day parade, that was the first time and the last time. I did it because he asked me. Joe was a great man and had one of the worst cases of PTSD that you could
    ever see. He was straffed by Stukas for 5 days in the middle east and as late as 1990 whilst we were watching a war movie I looked over to see him shaking as they showed Stukas dive bombing. This was 49 years after it happened. It was Winston Churchill who said “jaw, jaw jaw, is better than war, war, war”. It is so true and the people on both sides of the fight would agree.

  11. Oh. Your father’s words and your grandad’s picture did me in. My grandfather served in France in WWII. He never spoke of it to us. He mentioned things about the trip over, the trip home and the day he knew he was coming home, but never about his time there. My father-in-law served in Vietnam. He still has nightmares. Loud noises have him searching for cover, particulary if they occur at night.

    You are so right to point out the stories never told. Of those left behind. I have recently watched bits and pieces of Ken Burns’ documentary, “The War”. It features the stories of whites, blacks, japanese, women, etc. It is fascinating.

  12. Nice post Tracey. I can’t think of the right words to describe it, so “nice post” seems so trite. You are so right in everything you say.

    Then I read your mum’s comment, and could feel her loss and sadness over her dad.

    Then I read your dad’s comments, and his pain at remembering.

    You have all made your thoughts and feelings known clearly and beautifully.

    I admire you all, but at the same time, I want to hug you all too.

  13. Lisa

    Good to have Anzac Day every year … yes it is very emotional for everyone especially for those men who fought and returned back an broken man but they have given us love..Julie’s comment is emotionally as I remembered how handsome pop was – proven as photo showed…For Jim’s comment I know him that he never show his emotions around but really he is a softy as a puppy. (maybe now he is worse more softy) Beautiful comment Tracey…and for Ashy to continuing to carry on….I will always remember Anzac because I was sharing with my grandfather every year ( I missed one that was in 1992 because my daughter was born on that day at 4.33am ) ..I stopped marching in 1996 because he passed away but in my heart I still alawys remembered for those men who fought.

  14. grandma

    Hello Lisa. I know I am a bit slow, but it wasn’t until I read “my daughter was born” that I knew it was our Lisa, the fourth daughter. Sheena was born on Anzac Day – I remember. This world of blog is amazing.

  15. Great post Tracey. It is especially relevant for us, as so many of our young boys are in Iraq, dealing anew with the horrors of war. If they come back, and it’s a big “if,” they are forever changed, forever scarred.It breaks my heart, EVERY DAY, in our newspapers, to read the list of the latest casualties—most of them young kids, only a year or two out of high school….It would be one thing if it was for a worthy cause….Mr. Churchill had it right. Wonderful picture of your grandfather.

  16. Owww….look at your Grandad… Great photo Tracey at an appropriate time. I’m writing this in Paris on Anzac Day – being all patriotic and everything. Hope Ashley is well on this special day, as we are.

  17. Oh my … war just makes me nauseous! The ramifications are so far reaching long, long, after their return! My Grandfather served in Papua New Guinea .. he never marched, never collected his medals and never ever talked about his experience.

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