Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lest We Forget - a pacifist's remembrance of the centenary of ANZAC Day - Part 1

When one thinks of anti-war poetry, 
more often than not it is the poetry of World War 1, 
of the horrendous battlefields of the Western Front
of the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen is the author of what may be the best known anti-war poem,
Dulce et Decorum Est
Please go here for Dr Andrew Barker's analysis of Dulce et Decorum Est

As I write this, on the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli, thousands of Australians have left their homes to attend Dawn Services across the country, to keep alive the ANZAC tradition.  Other thousands of Australians have left their homeland to commemorate the Australian war dead in Turkey and France.  I have chosen to stay at home and write this reflection.

My own commemoration was done on Thursday night as I watched on television Kate Aubusson's wonderful remembrance, Lest We Forget What?.  Kate's film is the best thing I have seen or read about our ANZAC tradition - the research done, the people featured in the film, the things we didn't know and which are seldom revealed.  

I think this day on the war-time service of the men in my family - especially of the one who didn't return home, my great uncle Claude Gallaway.  He perished on the Western Front in France.  He was 26 years old.  Through the Australian War Memorial records we have been able to see the heart-breaking letters written regularly to the powers-that-be from my great grandmother and my three great aunts reminding them that their son and brother was still missing.

My grandfather, Jack (Rupert Franklin Gore) Gallaway, and his brother William Gallaway were Lighthorsemen

In World War 2, my uncle Roland Gore Gallaway served as a Coastwatcher on Manus Island and later in Japan with the Occupation Forces. My uncle, Jack Franklin Gallaway, served in the Royal Australian Navy in World War 2 and in Korea. Jack wrote The Last Call of the Bugle: Kapyong, Korea.  The title of the book refers to Korea being the last Australian conflict for which the call went out for volunteers.

My father, John Joseph (Jack) O'Carroll, served in Malaya in the 2/10th Field Regiment of the Eighth Division.  He was invalided home six weeks before the fall of Singapore.

For my generation, Vietnam was an issue and a horror.  It was then I became a pacifist. I have seen no reason in the decades since to resile from this decision.

Across history we have seen one conflict begetting another. World War 1 begat World War 2.  The American invasion of Iraq in recent decades has certainly influenced the current violence in the Middle East. There is the history of foreign military involvement in Afghanistan.  In recent generations, we have developed the so-called proxy wars. Australia is becoming enmeshed in these wars of empire.

I believe that pacifists fulfill the slogan we say each Anzac Day.  We are there to remind people of the cost, the horror, the futility of war ... Lest We Forget.

"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."

Lest We Forget.

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