Australia World War I revelation changes how ABC reporter Alexander Darling sees Anzac Day

10:15  23 april  2021
10:15  23 april  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

Does Anzac Day mean a public holiday Monday? It depends where you live

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"On Anzac Day 1919, the first after the Great War , there were no city marches or parades for returning veterans because we were battling the Spanish Flu pandemic. Though our streets were empty, the returning veterans were not forgotten." The service commenced with the sounding of the didgeridoo, played by Seaman Lynton Robbins, a Kamilaroi man of the Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Federation Guard then mounted a catafalque party, at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

Soldiers enlisted during the world wars were required to be 'substantially of European origin'. The race requirements for would-be soldiers became more lax as the need for them grew. At least 19 Chinese-Australians received bravery awards during World War I . Mr Wang said its Chinese Anzacs exhibition has been held at numerous RSL branches across regional Victoria, and it will soon travel to Perth. Many descendants of Chinese-Australian World War II veterans are expected to march in Anzac parades across the country today. However, Mr Wang said the Australian War Memorial in Canberra

a man wearing a hat: Wilfred John Mann Hughes, 22, was killed while carrying a wounded captain in Belgium in 1918. (Supplied: Virtual War Memorial Australia) © Provided by ABC NEWS Wilfred John Mann Hughes, 22, was killed while carrying a wounded captain in Belgium in 1918. (Supplied: Virtual War Memorial Australia)

I have never commemorated Anzac Day in any significant way.

As a child, I always looked forward to seeing Essendon and Collingwood at the MCG and I absorbed with awe the spectacle of 100,000 people standing silently.

But until this year I never fully appreciated why we get up early and stand so introspectively in the middle of our towns and cities.

I knew my great-grandfather Frederick Brooke Darling – Fred, as he was known — had been a captain during World War I and had his leg blown off by a shell, but that was about it.

Vast majority of Australians want a day off for Anzac Day on Monday

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( ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling . ) Po Tha Htoo said the Karen community appreciated the significance of Anzac Day . Members often joined the annual march to the war memorial at the centre of the highway town. ( ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling . ) War not in the past for Karen. Earlier this month, Australian Karen Organisation national president Saw Lwin Oo told the Australian Parliament's joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade that Karen people had experienced "callous attacks by the Myanmar military for over 72 years".

( ABC News: Gregor Salmon. ) For me , the Anzac legacy says that we are a people who, in adverse situations, are strong, look out for each other and are prepared to put others before ourselves. These characteristics were evident during this year's bushfire season and must help define the way we approach our responses to the coronavirus pandemic. And on Anzac Day we remember for a reason. We are proud of our Anzac forebears. Let us make them proud of us. I look forward to hearing many stories of how families observed the day and how reflecting on our past will help us today.

I wasn't much interested in knowing more: I never knew him – he died 11 years before my father was born – and the war that claimed his limb ended 76 years before I was born.

An email two weeks ago from my first cousin, once removed, changed that.

"I disappeared down a rabbit hole this morning and found links regarding the extraordinarily brave and unfortunate young man who died whilst helping our grandfather to the first aid station," she wrote.

The "rabbit hole" was the , a page full of testimonies and historical records that aims to piece together the lives and personalities of the men and women who served in Australia's armed conflicts.

My great-grandfather's saviour was , a man from Glenelg serving in the second Division Medium and Heavy Trench Mortar Batteries in Belgium in 1918 when German forces began an attack.

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"The chance to see those people from [ World War II] — the most important war , I would argue, that we've ever fought in — will be fleeting, and it will only last for a few more years," Professor Prior said. It is not that people will suddenly forget the war , with all its historic battles and horrors, but the personal nuances and recollections of the people behind those events will go. That is why Robin Prior, who writes war history books for a living, is saddened by notion that soon books are all we will have.

At 96, World War II veteran John Lyall is still sharp as a tack and can rattle off exact dates and vivid memories of events more than 75 years ago at the drop of a hat. Key points: Veterans say the cancellation of Anzac Day services will not dampen spirits. " I still do not know to this day how I got out of the aircraft. " I was staggering around half stunned and a little utility pulled up and this British WAAF [Women's Auxiliary Air Force] woman came up to me and gave me a great big bear hug. "She put her hand in her battle jacket and pulled out a brandy flask and said, 'get this into you'.

War records show he was shot dead at the age of 22, trying to get Fred to safety.

What I read next made me feel the closest I have ever felt to an ancestor: a letter to Wilfred's father written by Captain Darling while recovering from his injuries in a London hospital, four weeks later.

"Dear Mr. Hughes,

Not knowing you it is rather difficult to know really what particulars to give you in regard to your son. I think I will risk it and tell all I know…

I had the misfortune to get my leg shattered, and he with another man carried me to the nearest Aid Post under intense enemy fire. He accompanied me down on the light railway truck and was shot through the head by a machine gun bullet shortly after we started. Death was absolutely instantaneous; he did not suffer at all…

I hope the foregoing may give you an idea of the stuff your son was made of. I want you to believe me when I say that your son ranked with the finest of those who have made our army what it is. He was fearless where duty was concerned and had a smile for all misfortunes and hard knocks. We in the Battery respect and honour him as a man who did his duty to the full and lived an honourable, straight, and clean life. More than this no man can be. You can be wonderfully proud of him.

Anzac Day services across Australia light up the dawn

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As Australia prepares to mark an Anzac Day unlike any other, our veterans are facing the challenge of physical separation during a time that is traditionally more about unity. Some fear for how their mates in isolation will cope with the flashbacks commemorations bring. Others are embracing the opportunity for quiet contemplation. "Christmas is cool, but Anzac Day when we get together and share stories is really, really cool. So it is going to be tough this year without having that physical connection of being somewhere with your friends." Now a director of Gold Coast bootcamp company Veteran Mentors, Mr

(Supplied: Australian War Memorial. ) 'We were waiting to be executed'. Speaking in Greek, Mr Papadopoulos recalled how 30 men in his village were executed by the Germans and their remains torched. Women, children and the elderly were then rounded up on a beach and made to wait in the hot sun before the execution orders came in. "Those that had brothers, sisters, children, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands … we all started saying our farewells to each other," he told the ABC .

You will know him for what he is and that is the main thing."

My family and I were overwhelmed by Wilfred's sacrifice – it is possible we are all alive today because of what he did — but also by our relative's grace and sympathy for a bereaved father.

It is a great solace to know the kind of man Fred was.

Catharsis and truth

I felt compelled to reach out and thank the Virtual War Memorial as a result of this experience.

The centre is based in Adelaide and has been around for seven years. It was launched to coincide with the centenary of Anzac Day and more specifically the Battle of Amiens.

Chief executive Sharyn Roberts told me there were now 655,000 profiles of servicemen and women on the site, and that revelations like the one my family had experienced in recent weeks was the website's raison d'etre.

"We've got a big project underway at the moment to complete the person database: names and service details on the individuals that served, from the Boer War right through to Afghanistan and peacemaking missions," she said.

"We are hoping by the middle of the year we will move from 655,000 tribute profiles through to about 1.6 million.

Peter Dutton missed his first Anzac Day as defence minister

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"Last year we did an oral history on , a World War II veteran in Wallaroo, South Australia," she said.

"He had turned 100 in October and never spoke about his war experiences. In the last couple of minutes in that interview, he indicated how important it had been to talk about it, so it became a peacemaking thing for him.

"He passed away earlier this year."

Ms Roberts said the VWMA now had five employees, 15 volunteers and thousands of citizen researchers contributing.

"A lot of the commemorative focus has been on those who didn't return, justifiably so, but as we've worked with veteran communities, a lot of the sadness has been around stories not being captured," she said.

"If we look at that shift to 1.6 million tribute profiles, that's about 1.6 million stories to be told. This is about elevating those stories that would otherwise be unknown."

New understandings

More than , and twice as many were injured across months of fighting by the Allies to try to force the Ottoman Empire out of World War I.

After my family's discovery of Wilfred Hughes, in addition to feeling solemn on April 25, I will now also feel grateful.

Grateful to Wilfred, grateful to Fred for honouring the man who saved him, grateful that I live in a country barely touched by conflict compared to the rest of the world, and grateful to the dedicated people who dig up these stories.

Bridge-top Anzac event pulls heartstrings

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Ms Roberts thinks the memorial's work will become more important as the world wars of the 20th century grow more distant.

"When you look at facets of history like conflict that have such a significant impact on societal values and economies, all of those things are well documented. What isn't told as much is the stories of the participants, the people that enlisted," she said.

"Our history is not complete without these stories, that's what drives us through every day.

"We cannot remember them if we don't know them."

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From driveways to marches, veterans carry on Anzac spirit .
Thousands have been able to stand side-by-side at dawn services for the first time in two years, but COVID-19 restrictions have ignited anger amongst some veterans.Thousands stood side-by-side for Anzac Day, for the first time in two years, to watch the night sky turn to dawn, pausing and reflecting on the great sacrifice men and women before them have made.

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