Let’s not forget the honour, but also not forget the fight and horror of war 486



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As Anzac Day has just passed, I find myself with mixed feelings about the remembrance of those who died in War. Naturally, I honour and respect them and their families left behind. But, I do wonder about the excuse for a day off, a booze-up and a BBQ which it seems to me, is what it means to a lot of people these days.

But also, I think the words of my father had quite an impact on me in my younger days – and I always remember him saying “War should never be glorified”. Most of we “over 60s” do not remember even the Second World War – we were part of the post war baby boom. My parents’ experiences, though was probably fairly unusual.

As I have mentioned before in articles, I was born and brought up in Guernsey, which is the second largest island in the Channel Islands which are dots in the English Channel, south of England and closer to France. During the war, Guernsey was occupied by Germans for the whole five years. I grew up hearing about “the occupation” for all of my childhood, but in typical childish style, did not really have any understanding of what the term meant. My older brother was born in 1940 in the midst of it all, and so spent the first years of his life in this situation. Apparently, the rented house in which I spent my first 15 years was taken over by the occupying troops. My maternal grandmother, with her two younger daughters and the granddaughter she was raising, were evacuated to England for the whole period. Many school children were sent away, and were separated from and not able to see families again until the war was over.

There were so many stories told over and over in my childhood. My parents would get together with friends and remind each other of some of the yarns and would laugh and cry about it all. Many of the tales were of the tricks played on “the enemy” to obtain more food or listen to the forbidden English news on the radio. There are tales of my aunt being halted for riding a bicycle after curfew, and in some madness of panic, picking the bike up and running as if that would make it quicker! But most of all, the stories involved food. There was gradually a shorter and ever diminishing supply of food. Red Cross parcels would arrive for families with perhaps a little bit of chocolate for a special treat. But basic supplies ran very low. People who have never lived on an island, have little concept of how isolated they can be once there are no regular visits of planes and ships. I have experienced this only for short periods during times of thick fog over the island. People were eating – and making coffee from – turnips, stew from seaweed, growing what they could and sharing with friends and neighbours. Perhaps those stories of the excitement and camaraderie of sharing a rare chicken or piece of meat with friends were the most memorable. The experiences of friendship during those times were special and I think at times – were even missed by those who had been there. For my working class parents, once rationing was over, it was important to them that we always had “good food”. My Father hated turnips and parsnips with a passion and my brother would never eat bananas, as he would not ever have been offered one as a small child. By the end of the war, everyone in the island was very hungry, including of course, the Germans. I think that both sides suffered great deprivation of basic needs and loss of family.

I greatly regret now that I didn’t ask more questions and find out more about the Occupation. Of course, there are quite a few books and records of these historical times. Every year, Liberation Day is celebrated on May 9th. One can only begin to imagine the joy and celebration of that first one in in 1945. I was fortunate to be in the island for the 60th celebration in 2005 and people were celebrating with much joy. My mother was still alive then and while she had memory issues, she knew the occasion and I was glad to talk to her a little about it.

I suppose my birth in 1947, was part of the celebration. I was always very close to my maternal grandma who had not met my brother until he was 5. I did not come to Australia until 1970, so even Vietnam was not part of my direct experience. Perhaps that is why I can’t help wondering how it is that we have not learned enough to discourage war at every turn, and we still send our people to fight on other soil. Let’s by all means honour those who fought, but never ever forget the ravages and horrors of War for everyone concerned.


Share your thoughts below.

Val McCrae

Val would describe herself as a "budding" writer, constantly working on her memoir. Has been on several writing courses ( the last one in Paris!) and imagines one day having a book published! Don't we all? Isn't it true that each of us has a book inside us! She says that mostly, writing is a pleasure, it is therapy, it is cathartic, it is an art, a skill, it is more than a hobby and more a way of life. Writing down the issues that create passion is life affirming. Age is irrelevant when writing!

  1. I understand your point of view Valerie; sometimes it can seem to be more about the BBQ than about the day.
    I was a strong, vocal anti-Vietnam protester, but at the same time volunteered at the R & R Centre for American servicemen in Woolloomooloo, because the soldiers, just kids many of them, do not start wars.
    I honour the men and women, not the wars.

  2. Totally agree. I think we’re so busy with the pomp and ceremony that we forget the fact that, in my opinion, we should be saying “sorry” rather than “thanks”. Crazy situation those young men were sent into. Pointless.

    16 REPLY
    • I agree Lorraine . War is useless, we have learnt nothing in those 100 years. How many people have died needlessly in those 100 years?

      1 REPLY
      • So – it was a waste of time fighting against the Germans and the Japanese in WWII? I don’t think so…and look at our relationships with them now. If we had not fought them where would we be now? I don’t think you would like to have had the Nazis running Europe and the Japanese running the Pacific. War is evil…but unfortunately it appears to be necessary until countries stop invading other countries.

    • Fay, Tony and Lorraine I disagree nobody is celebrating war they are remembering the people that served and lost thier lives, and Lorraine what a stupid coment if those people hadn’t gone to war you would not live the free life you have now so wake up

    • Why would we need to say sorry. Anzac day doesnt glorify the wars. It is so we can remember our diggers and say thank you for the sacrifice they made so people can make comments like yours Lorraine.

    • Still think it’s more “sorry” than “thanks”. I wouldn’t thank someone for dying….especially when it was needless. However, of course you’re entitled (as we all are) to our opinion.

    • Where do you get the idea of “thanks” Lorraine Moyes. It is a day of remembrance. You should go back and check history. No one wants war. Just respect

    • I agree that no war should be glorified, nor should we ever forget those who died for their country, whichever war they fought in. I am truly sorry that anyone has to die in war, both past and present, and thankful for living in a peaceful country like Australia. I was at the march in Sydney yesterday as my husband is ex RAF. Afterwards we joined forces with many others to remember our fallen comrades, but nothing was glorified.

    • I agree with you, Lorraine. WW1 was a pointless war that (unlike WW2) had nothing to do with Australia’s freedom. Should we apologise for turning a generation of young Aussies into cannon fodder for the British generals? Absolutely!

      1 REPLY
      • Absolutely agree! Cannon fodder for imperial ambitions! Young Australians have been sacrificing themselves first for the British Empire and then for the American “Empire”…and are still doing so right now. WWI was not fighting for “our freedom” as is so often part of the slogans put out. WWII…debatable as to Japanese intentions re Australia, if the former had not been edged into the War by the U.S.

    • Loraine ,Toni and Fay, my Father did 1st and 2nd ww and this day was there for him to march again and remember , this does not mean he was glorifying any war ,he told me a couple of things about the 1st war which would make your stomack turn ,this is time to remember and that they do ,lok at the tears in their eyes and tell me they were rejoicing THANK YOU ANZACS YOU HAVE YOUR DAY TO REMEMBER WOMEN AND MEN .

    • We commemorate and commiserate, NOT celebrate in WA,, all of our servicewomen and servicemen. Recognise their bravery, courage and ultimate sacrifice, as people, Not the rights and wrongs and stupidity of the conflict they were dragged into…Well, I think everyone at the ceremony yesterday agreed with this “summary” message, which was in essence what all the speakers were saying.

    • The first world war never ended… the roman empire started the conquer and control .. it never ended… war has never ended just got worse…. britain dragged Australia in to WW1… japan was a war mongering conquerong

    • Lorraine all war is pointless. However as long as there are men who have greed and ambition in their hearts you can either let them walk over you or stand up and oppose them. Unfortunately many of the campaigns fought were pointless but not for the bravery and courage of those brave men and women you may not be enjoying the lifestyle you have today. And don’t think for one minute that the threat has gone away.

    • Lorraine, we are only entitled to our opinions because our diggers fought for that democratic ideology. Ask people in China about that. Our servicemen need apologise for nothing. They fought for ideologies we still believe in today. I welcome you view of this stance. Such is democracy.

    • Laine jones , Australians were no more cannon fodder than anyone else . It was their choice to go to war , there was no call up . It would be well to remember that 100 yrs ago Australia was a very different place , there was very strong connections to Great Britain and these chaps thought it was their duty . They were very very brave . Can you imagine the difference they would have made to Australia had they all lived , the children and grandchildren they never had . It was a huge loss to Australia but no more so than everyone else who was involved

      1 REPLY
      • I agree with your overall sentiments but on the question of enlistment you need to read about the treatment of Conscientious Objectors and the social shaming for able-bodied young men who did not “volunteer” to be cannon fodder. Also, there was the Great Depression, which was a major motivator for enlisting.

  3. I share the ambivalence. As a third generation member of a family whose men have served in the UK and Australian military, I see an emerging mythology surrounding this event. Respect and honour the dead but don’t overlook the senseless waste of life that it was.

  4. At all Anzac day services the horrors of war and what these men went through is told over and over I do not think it is glorifying war in any shape or form

    7 REPLY
    • Very true! No one is glorifying war! Although I heard a very young DJ raving on about ” the huge victory” and ” let’s talk to someone who fought there” Really! They apologised when it was pointed out the last digger died in 2002 and how old someone would have to be now!

    • Anyone can drop a gaffe, but by the same token, I think there does need to be an intelligence test of some sort.
      Ignorant patter like this shows the speaker to be a total fool.

    • PEACE was HARD WON through WWII! Yes, the losses were enormously devastating and heartbreaking. However, what was the alternative?

      Fearful that it’s started again – different – but once again. People who do not believe in God and satan only have to look at the dire state of this mortal world, consisting of pure goodness and vile wickedness -and everything in-between – to question those beliefs.

    • “Lest We Forget” That is imo the meaning of ANZAC day. Do not forget what happened but also do not forget how it happened. Do not forget the horror of war and the impact of war on nations and families. The pity of it all is that the male species has not learnt what effects war has on the human race. The greed, the power, the inability to live and let live, the inability to forgive and never forget. Until they start to use the money wasted on all aspects of wars and the production of even more efficient ways of wiping ourselves off the planet and spend the money on nations that are starving and dying of disease and to improve quality of life, we as a human raced are doomed to eternal misery and hardship.

      1 REPLY
    • It’s a commemoration, not a celebration. personally I think it’s wonderful that more young people are respecting and honouring the sacrifices service men and women made and the wonderful life and opportunities we Australians now have. I genuinely don’t think anyone is glorifying the enormous sacrifices and suffering. Lest we forget

  5. Yes we have not learnt anything. War does not solve anything. We should have a new world order of sharing what we have then we wouldn’t have to fight over it. There are children growing up in poverty without any hope. What kind of adults will they be?

    11 REPLY
    • Talking to each other would be a start focussing on our similarities. We all want the basics, food, water, shelter. This could work if we really wanted it. We seem to have a lot of talkfests, a lot of charity organisations but we are getting nowhere. It is all about greed & power.

    • Margaret, would you have that happen now with the Issa people who are doing terrible things to people who don’t do what they want or believe in.

    • Even in Australia the States couldn’t agree on the Railway gauges ? The world as it will never agree because of greed, politics, religion, stupidity, land areas, oil, racism, the colour of ones skin,and lots more. A New World Oder ??? Who would run that ??

    • Good to have hope Margaret, unfortunately we have to deal with ignorance, as in poor intelligence poor education poor nutrition power hungry politicians, how do we get consensus when even the main religions can’t agree on basic human rights? I’ve said this several times now….what would the world look like if Hitler had won the second word war? Unfortunately, even though I have not agreed on all the wars we have been involved in we have to fight some people in the only way we can. Freedom comes at a high price.

    • Idealism is fine but sadly it is just that ,idealism. Reality is cruel. Wanting peace is how most of the world wants but not all. The service i attended and those I listened to did not glorify war but urged peace.

  6. Disagree. We are not glorifying those brave young men that died, we are paying our respect and acknowledging, honouring and thanking them their sacrifice.
    And …
    We are NOT glorifying war, that is not what ANZAC Day is all about.

  7. Sorry I don’t agree with you on that at all,we need to make sure that our youth knows who fought for for the freedom they are enjoying …Without understanding the past we do not appreciate the future…To me it’s like saying not to acknowledge your roots, just enjoy the family that’s there now…

  8. so many of us dont know the horror these brave men endured, war should never be glorified BUT we should always pay homage to those who went & returned & those who made the supreme sacrifice, men like Churchill & his henchmen should of been charged with war crimes against their own forces just for their lake of humanity they butchered thousands for their own glory

    2 REPLY
    • I don’t think Churchill went to war for his own glory. In fact he wasn’t PM at the beginning of WW11 so didn’t send the initial troops when Poland was invaded by Hitler. Churchill fought for democracy and yes, in that fight, many young lives were lost and mistakes were made. That is what makes us human. What would you have done in the circumstances Rod Clifford if you were PM of Britain during the war?

    • I hate to think what the world would have looked like if we had let Hitler get away withe his plans!!

  9. Lorraine Moyes .
    Not one person or ceremony yesterday “glorified” war. The men who went to Gallipoli were all volunteers. No one knew what they were being “sent into” . That is the whole point and tragedy of it all. And we ARE sorry but we ARE also hugely thankful. Aren’t you ?

    4 REPLY
    • I agree with you yes! Anzac Day we are saying thanks to all those who went to war & the horrors that went on,it also reminds us NOT TO DO IT AGAIN! We are not glorifying it at all..LEST WE FORGET

    • I Agree. Missing out in the Vietnam Ballot as the Fraser GOV had pulled the plug around My 20th Birthday. Pretty happy about that. I did get a little card that said I was indefinitly deffered expired 2003 ?

    • Agree with you totally. They tell the stories of horror of war to try to get through to people that it is not something to be rushed into because the effects of war, death, maiming, killing are devastating for the people involved and their families. It affects generations to come.

    • Always amazes me that they didn’t have to go , it wasn’t their war , but they as young men felt it was and went anyway . They were truly brave and all our freedoms come from their selflessness

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