erle levey

A time to remember ... and reflect

THERE is no glory in war. Just the actions of those sent off to fight the wars.

Look at the maps of the world and the way the boundaries of empires ebb and flow through time, like the tides on the beaches. Lines drawn on a map that can be washed away.

As Anzac Day approaches you wonder how many little towns across Australia saw their sons and daughters march off to fight for king and country - some to return, many to remain on the battlefields of Europe, the Middle East and to sleep forever in the fields of Asia or on the islands of the East Indies and the Pacific.

And of those who did return, at what cost? The loss of innocence? The loss of hearing, sight or limbs? The loss of mates?

Some were captured as prisoners, some survived the death marches or worked on the Burma Railway in the World War Two.

Many said it would have been better to have died there than to live with the memory of the suffering those poor souls had to go through.

Those who were in New Guinea regarded it as being like the entrance to hell, the fighting was so intense and confined.

Then there were those who half froze in the icy mountains of Korea or were bogged down in the fields and jungles of Vietnam.

And today the conflicts that are being played out in the deserts of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Just like the heroic actions of diggers in the trenches of Gallipoli, the Somme and Fromelle, the charge of the lighthorse at Beersheba, the true meaning of Anzac Day shows through in the most unlikely places.

It isn't at the grand parades through city streets, not at the dawn services of imposing cenotaphs.

Forget the posturing of politicians and those privileged men in places of power.

It was at the hinterland village of Kin Kin, among rolling green hills and the last remnant stands of giant forests, that I stumbled across an Anzac Day service in the tiny timber church.

A serviceman stood guard outside. Inside, the village's inhabitants had gathered in the small, restored building, some of them veterans of the Second World War with nick-names known throughout the town.

There were farmers and labourers, business people, stockmen and the local publican. It was so simple. So touching.

You stumble across the littered history of war at the obscure places across Australia.

Along the country roads where troops had been posted. The remains of stone ovens and rusted implements that were used to cook for the men as they waited for the call to go off to a distant land.

You wonder what it was like for them, enjoying the peace of those bushland settings.

For those who did manage to return, as thin as the ghosts they had left behind in places such as Ambon and Sandakan.

That's what Anzac Day means to me ... all of those little churches and memorial halls with their honour rolls, in all of those outposts across this land.

And as we filed outside that day into the bright sunshine at Kin Kin, a lone piper played.


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