Not too far from my home in England is a cemetery where 111 Australian soldiers (and 1 nurse) are buried. They had passed away at the nearby Harefield Hospital, where approx 50,000 Australian troops passed through having treatment for their injuries in World War 1.
I’d visited Harefield Parish Churchyard Australian Military Cemetery before, but never on Anzac Day. Today I did that, and was touched by how well preserved the hallowed grounds are, obviously still cared for almost 100 years after the end of The Great War. Apparently the villagers have a ceremony each year with schoolchildren laying wreaths, but I didn’t know about that until this evening so I missed it. Must go next year.
I found a grave of Charles Edward Stevens who died at 24. And J. Naylor who was in the Cyclist Corps. He was 21. Too young. Far too young.
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.
Yes, I remembered them. I did one minute’s silence after humming the Last Post to myself. I remembered that Australia was a country of just 4.9 million people in 1914, and over 300,000 troops fought in WW1. A large proportion of the population hopped in a boat and travelled for six weeks to defend the Commonwealth. 62,000 of them did not return. 150,000 were injured. We owe our freedom to the sacrifice of these brave fellows. Much of the modern Aussie psyche was built on these battlefields. The comradery. The mateship. The ‘She’ll Be Right’ attitude. The toughness. The resilience. The pride. And today I was proud as I remembered.
And I remembered the words from the Edwin Starr song:
War huh yeah what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’