Friday, August 4, 2017

on World War I - personal dimensions

Out of the blue, at John Menadue's blog, came the voice of Rawdon Dalrymple, which I had not heard for a long time. He wrote, now 87, as one of the dwindling number of people whose parents had been in World War I. Follow the link from the title below. I have submitted personal comment as below. 
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    It is wonderful to hear the voice of Rawdon Dalrymple, such a reflective and decent influencing voice when I was young in the foreign service.
    I have at times wanted to write of my family connection to the war but not put it down. I did place here a letter from my father’s father’s stepfather Tom in April 1918, reflecting anguish at the need to have the army’s clarity as to the fate of his son Preston buried in mud the previous September. On the first day of the third battle of Ypres, Tom’s company was under the artillery at the third advance on that glorious day when Australian, New Zealand and Canadians alongside each other advanced, as never before, a thousand yards before lunch, just over 40% casualties.
    the whole letter is here
    As a sense of the times, the fervour, the whipped in loyalty, such as we seem to be near today, it is terrible to read the end of Tom’s letter, written in what might have been my father’s handwriting:
    “I can assure you it has crushed the both of us, the loosing the two of our sons.I know there are many even worse off than we are that is they have lost more sons. But one satisfaction to us is that they have shed their blood for freedom and righteousness and I am sure if I had more I would not withhold them from going to do their duty.”
    As regards the “if I had more” my grandfather was the (I think) bastard child, sent to the other end of the planet as a boat person (how modern) with his mother from England, mother met with Tom after death of first Australian husband of typhoid along with his brother in the Cobar mine rush, Tom and Annie’s children including two dead on the Western Front… but also three dead before that from diseases, before they reached the age of eight. Death, a commonplace, walked among them all. Different times, contrast the furores attending even slight and unintended mismanagement of hospital cases now. Now we expect short waits for sore knees in A and E… And fast planes to go abroad and impose casualties of war, unseen and unheard, on the other lot.
    The late Eric Andrews used to chuckle that after other books of his sold few copies, the rage of the RSL’s Ruxton at his ‘Anzac Illusion’ caused that book to sell out in a week. In it, among other things, he noted that the first Anzac day march was a British thing, a recruitment encouragement, done in London in 1916, troops in transit from the Middle East to the Western Front, with hasty last-minute organisation of events also in Australia. Andrews further noting that the number of Australians who volunteered was exceeded handily by the number who did not volunteer. Also that in the conscription referendum votes, Australian soldiers in France were divided evenly in their vote, with heavy concern that conscription could only prolong war and misery.
    In all our benighted tendency to be swallowed by fears and chauvinistic chants, half of us actually are less driven. But lacking coherent opposition to the heavy booted. Hello Italy 1920s.

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