Much has been written of the heroics and bravery of people and many have been awarded medals for their deeds in the field during armed conflicts. There has also been many who have shown bravery who have not been awarded medals.
The common everyday deeds of many of our uniformed troops faced with, what may have been seen as, insurmountable odds, as well as the ones seen as being larrikins and dismissive of authority. Every one of them added to the character of our nation.
The exploits of Private John (Barney) Hines during the first World War were revealed in the pages of this publication back in November 2018, one hundred years after the end of that war. In that article I spoke of some of his actions, such as when he captured 63 German soldiers single handedly on the Western front in Europe.
The exploits of Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli have also become part of Australia’s history, whilst the story of Breaker Morant during the Boer War has been told through film and literature.
We also recognise the medical teams that operate from behind the front lines and work on the injured troops saving many lives; the war correspondents who report from the front lines in informing the general population of latest events.
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Many are placed in danger; some have revealed to authorities the atrocious conditions that the military brass have been forced to deal with. People such as Keith Murdoch and Gibert Mant were all such war correspondants.
Not to forget the many people who gave up their trades to join the battles of war; butchers, farmers, clerks, shop assistants, bankers, white and blue collar workers alike. Fathers, sons and brothers, sisters and daughters and all who served.
We should recognise the hundreds and thousands who assisted the war effort in many other ways. The firefighters, the housewives who knitted socks for the servicemen or donated clothing to the bombed out victims in London and elsewhere, those who joined The Red Cross, The Land Army or those working in armament factories building planes, ships or making bullets and small arms.
Those who survived the ravages of war have at times regaled us with their stories, some sad, some entertaining and fun. In February last year in a tribute to Albert (Bert) Collins, I related a tale he told me of an incident during his time serving in the army during World War 11.
Whilst on duty as a sentry at an army base, he spotted a Senior Officer approaching the gate. Knowing that his army buddies were behind a building playing an illegal game of twoup he asked the Senior Officer for the password before he could be allowed to enter the camp. The Officer did not know the password, so Bert refused him entry.
The officer said that he would come back the next day. One of Bert’s mates asked “What is the password?” Bert replied “Hell if I know, I just wanted to stop him before he discovered you lot playing two-up. As far as I know there isn’t a password.”
Bert was a humble man who never forgot his mates. He once said “I am one of the luckiest men alive. I am grateful to return from the Second World War alive, whilst many of my mates never made it back. I have a spirit within me and I hope that spirit never leaves me.”
Unfortunately, the spirit did eventually leave Bert who passed away on the 13th of February 2022, just weeks before his 106th birthday.
I now say to Bert and his mates and all those others in war zones of the past and present – “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we remember them – LEST WE FORGET.”