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A few thoughts for Remembrance Day

By Deadly Ernest ·
I'm Australian, and for over 100 years Australians have left our shore to fight overseas. They did so, in the strong belief that they were combating something evil and wrong. For most of that time, the soldiers were volunteer militia, later some were conscripted. In either case, they were civilians put into uniform, given minimal training, and sent overseas. Even the conscripts had the opportunity to refuse to leave the country. Until the middle of WW2 it was actually against our laws for the government to send regular Army troops overseas.

My father was one of those volunteers who went overseas during WW2, he was born in October 1921, so he wasn't that old when he went. For those in the USA, please remember we were fighting the Japanese for some time before Pearl Harbour.

Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are, and should be, more a remembrance of ALL those who fought, not only those who died. Many young men went off to war, and came back physically OK, but radically changed, and I don't mean those that were shell shocked. This has been the case in every case of military conflict throughout the ages. The problem many people have today, is in understanding WHY they volunteered to go to war.

Like many young men who went away in WW1, WW2, and the rest, my father was changed by the events in which he participated and witnessed. But he was, and still is the same as the majority of people alive then and today. That is why when called upon the young men of Australia have always, and I hope, will always respond and volunteer to serve. The Australian soldiers have always been average everyday Australians doing what they felt that they had to do.

Below are some poems by my father, then a young man who was developing into a very good architect before WW2, went to serve in PNG and other Pacific Island venues - in his late teens. After the war he couldn't stand working in an office, he had to be out in the open, where he could see what was going on about him; he was one of the lucky ones, he was never captured by the Japanese.

All who knew him, say that he came back a markedly changed person, as did his younger brother who'd been a Japanese POW. It was clear, they both detested what happened to them overseas. However, their love for those they served with, was strong as steel 60 years later, and when asked if they knew, before hand, what they were getting into, would they have still volunteered, they said yes. I think that is all part of the Anzac Spirit.

Whilst on active service, dad wrote many poems, and sent them home to his family. Like most of the diggers, he was aware of what the media and politicians were saying at home, and sometimes his poetry was in response to the issues of the day.

About 15 years ago my father wrote down some of his experiences during WW2, and since then I have found some of the diaries and poetry he wrote, whilst serving overseas. Two things that were very clear in what he wrote - he didn't enjoy being overseas, nor did he like being a soldier; but he volunteered because he felt that it was his duty, to do all he can, to keep the Japanese away from his family and friends in Australia.

Funnily, I know many people who have difficulty understanding this attitude, but everyone I know who has served in military service under fire, or worked in a tight knit group in extreme danger - like fire fighters etc understand it very clearly.

This was written when he was in the islands about two years

I wandered from the darkening tent,
My mind steeped in unrest,
And standing 'neath a stately gum,
Gazed, unseeing, to the west.

For my soul was sick and weary,
In my heart was sad regret,
As I pondered o'er the sordid things,
Which made my spirit fret.

I thought of days that used to be,
Of things that might have been,
The condition of the world today,
And the yawning gulf between.

Those happy, carefree, pre-war days,
The days we must restore,
So that others may enjoy them,
As we used to, once before.

Or the feelings of the moment, like these.

MILNE BAY - 1943

The sun was a golden ball of fire,
The sky a copper sheen;
The turbulent sea of yesterday,
A placid, carpet green.

We sweltered in the Tropic heat,
And cursed, or prayed for night
To come, with it's fragrant coolness,
Bringing us sweet respite.

Away across the sparkling bay,
Past scanty strips of sand,
The rugged ranges reared o'er all,
Their ramparts, proud and grand.

But, their wild, barbaric splendour,
'Neath it's tangled coat of green,
Withheld so many sad memories,
Of grim, bloody battle scenes.

They remember the sons of Australia,
Who had willingly shed their blood.
To wipe out the Japanese menace.
And they cherish the crossed bit of wood.

In neat rows, in secluded clearings,
Mute pleas to those who remain;
Asking that we do not fail them,
That their sacrifice be not in vain.

Or sent hand made Christmas cards back home with:

And though this Christmas time has found me
With nought but jungle all around me
There'll be plenty more for you and I to share.

So smile, and let your heart be gay
For though I'm many miles away
Remember that in spirit I'll be there.

Ernest Bywater - somewhere in the Pacific Islands WW2


Ernest Bywater

yeah we share the same name

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My Father-in-law was in Britain

by oldbag In reply to A few thoughts for Rememb ...

My Father-in-Law trained fighter pilots in Britain during WWII. We lost him a few years ago so in memory of FO Albert Glassman, I submit:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies ****
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

On November 11, every Canadian student repeats this poem which was written by Colonel John McRae. He served during WWI and did not make it home.

Buy a poppy and remember!

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Thank you

by Shellbot In reply to A few thoughts for Rememb ...

for sharing Ernest.

The poems are beautiful and give a bit of insight into what must have been **** for him.

Being Canadian, I take Rememberance Day very seriously. My family has had a few in the Armed Forces, and my grandfather did a small bit of active duty in WW2. With my grandparents being very active members of the Legion, I grew up with a great respect for them and what that generation did for us all.

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Thanks, they are, I hope to get all his poems together and published

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Thank you

one day.

The reason I started this thread, is that the local satellite TV people are running a lot of war related programs in the lead up to Remembrance Day, and they're focusing on what was done by who, not on the average people in uniform, not why they were in uniform. In most countries, the majority of the people in uniform during WW1 and WW2 were not professional soldiers who'd joined during peace time, they were people who'd signed up for the duration only. The average people in the street, who went to do something they knew wasn't going to be nice, but went anywat, because they felt they should.

I just felt that something had to be said about the why, as I hear too many people saying silly things, especially the younger people. Much of the why that motivated the troops to go then, also motivates the troops to go since, to Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Iraq, etc - the things motivating the individuals is still much the same. They just have a chance to be better trained as they're professionals this time.

A few things that I never knew about my father, until he wrote his short memoirs about the war.

1. How academically smart he was, with a good career developing as an architect. I knew he was smart, but coming from a working class background, I thought he'd missed out on educational opportunities, surprised to learn he had a lot more formal education than I suspected.

2. How much he liked working in an office.

3. How much the experience in the islands changed him.

Until I read his diaries etc, I'd thought dad had always worked outside as a truck driver. I was surprised to find out how much office work he'd done before the war. Many of his pre-war jobs, were inside buildings. After the war, all his work was outside. He first did truck driving in the Army, and had continued to do it, until he retired at 60 years of age.

Dad dies a few years ago, to this day, we still don't know everything he did in the war. When my brother got a copy of his war record, a significant section of his first 18 months in the island is missing, still classified. The earliest records, after leaving Australia, are about his hospitalisation for dengue fever and maleria, both of which, especially dengue, are classed as deprivitation diseases. yet what we do have don't indicate him serving anywhere that he could have got dengue.

What was another surprise, is that a few years ago, watching a TV show, with a depictation of an ex special services operative supposedly attacking someone, he picked the scene apart - the actor didn't attack right. Yet what we have of his record, doesn't list any training on advanced combat techniques, which he mentioned in the following discussion. It just goes to show, that you may never really know your parents.

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Very Nice

by DMambo In reply to A few thoughts for Rememb ...

My father was practically a senior citizen (23) when he enlisted. He joined up about a month after his 17 year-old brother. The old man served in Okinawa and elsewhere in the Pacific. When his little brother was crippled in an accident while serving stateside, my father re-upped for 3 years to support sending the kid thru college.

It was kind of the same as your father. Mine didn't really enjoy being a sailor, but did his duty. He freely admitted that he enlisted in the Navy to avoid being drafted into the Army. He did serve honorably for 6 years, was injured, and later told some stories about the action he saw. He was stationed on the USS Missouri when the the treaty was signed. After the war, he was stationed in Greenland, quite a change! His experiences made him hate war, and I remember his opposition to the Viet Nam conflict throughout the late 60's until it's end.

The greatest impact his service had on me was that he handed down his view point of war. It didn't affect everyone in the family the same though; my sister and one of my brothers both served in the military. It also gave me an old man for a dad. He was 30 when he was discharged, and well over 40 when I was born.

It is important to remember those who served.

BTW Ernest, the poetry is lovely.

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Marriage for a lot of that generation of servicemen was mixed

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Very Nice

They seemed to break into three major groups:

1. Those that came home and married childhood sweethearts, either during or immediately after the way.

2. Those who met, whirlwind romanced, and married someone during the war.

3. And the biggest group, those who waited until 4 or 5 years after the war to get married. Dad was 28 when he got married in 1949.

One old soldier I never really liked was MacAurthur, but he said something right in a speech at West Point "No one detests war more than the soldiers who fight it."

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Lovely DE

by drowningnotwaving In reply to A few thoughts for Rememb ...

As a kiwi I still shudder when I hear the ode, and always tried to remember on 11/11 and on 25/4 to remember to say it, no matter in the world where we were:

They shall not grow old
as we who are left grow old
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun,
and in the morning,
we shall remember them.
Lest we forget.

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I know what you mean, and you don't have the lines set out right

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Lovely DE

The ode is the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon's poem 'For the Fallen.'

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

It is a a four line stanza, not eight. And, interestingly, I recent used it as the last words in a short story I wrote, I'm in the middle of mixing that with some others related stories to make a novel length ebook for publishing.

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thanx mate nuff said

by drowningnotwaving In reply to I know what you mean, and ...


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Sorry if I came across a pedantic, that's the way I am,

by Deadly Ernest In reply to thanx mate nuff said

being a perfectionist can be a real pain at times. What is interesting is the number of people who think it's an eight line stanza

Here's a link to the full poem, if your interested.

Having been involved in the RSL Youth Club movement for many years I'm more used to hearing the Ode of an evening, than otherwise.

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by Oz_Media In reply to A few thoughts for Rememb ...

Somehow, reading those was not the same as reading poetry in a book; written by somone I don't know. Knowing it was written by someone's father, someone whom I have had shared discussions with, seems to cast a different light on it.

Thanks for sharing, it's well written and paints such vivid pictures. You're right remembering all those who srved, and if it wasn't for those that HAD come home, I am not sure I would have learned to feel the same. I would not have stood proudly beside them at the war memorial and would not have laid a wreath this morning.

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