As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War next year and then the centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in 2015 it is really stirring to see such massive turnouts for services across Australia. In my own part of the world Anzac Day is the most important day in our district calendar. Descendants of veterans march down the main street of Boomi with the children of Boomi Primary School following behind the marchers, and we are fortunate to have a local piper to lead the parade. Townsfolk and people from outlying properties line the street and many wave Australian flags and clap as the parade passes by. It’s only a short march, a couple of hundred yards and then the participants wheel right and walk through the war memorial gateway arch and up the steps into the Boomi Memorial Hall. It’s always a privilege to be involved in the parade and later to join with the entire community as we commemorate this important day. Later the district sits down to a communal lunch within the hall, with an afternoon of 2 up rounding off a special day.
This year, among our special guests was a Vietnam veteran who spoke not only about his time in Vietnam but also the personal demons he faced on returning to Australia after his tour concluded. It was a timely reminder of the emotional problems that affect and continue to affect those brave souls in our arm forces after they return home from conflicts abroad. A wonderful WW2 veteran also joined us. KH, as I shall affectionately call her, was a wireless operator during the second World War and worked closely with the Lancaster Bombing squadrons who were sent on missions to Germany. It really is wonderful to have such people attend our district celebrations.
Both my grandfather’s were veterans of two major conflicts, my paternal grandfather fought on the Somme and in Flanders, Belgium during the Great War and my mother’s father was a squadron leader with the Australian airforce and was seconded to the British air force during World War 2. My paternal grandfather was a Lewis Gunner during WW1 and was awarded the military medal for ‘bravery in the field’ at Strazeele, Belgium in 1917. During a hostile attack by the Germans he apparently ‘used his gun to the best advantage’ thereby turning back the enemy and saving his own men. He was seriously wounded the next day having received a gunshot wound to the head however he survived and returned to Australia to eventually marry and then take over the running of our family property until his passing in 1955. The award was presented to him by King George at Buckingham Palace in 1918.
We have the original military medal and original ribbon however the value of the medal is such that it is now not worn in public (nor kept locally). Instead I wear some of the replica’s Grandfather Alexander was entitled to following his service to our country.
The medal with the winged female is the Victory Medal commemorating the end of the Great War. On the reverse the inscription reads, ‘The great War for Civilisation 1914-1919. The middle medal is the 1914-1918 Defence Medal. The last is the Military Medal for bravery in the Field. On the reverse it is inscribed with ‘For Bravery in the Field’.
Although I never knew either of my grandfather’s, I march with pride and I guess I do know them, as I see them in my parent’s eyes.