ANZAC Day – From the Floreat Pica Society: by Frank Taylor

ANZAC Day

 

ANZAC Day was 1st proposed, I believe, by John Monash (one of my historical heroes) in 1915 sometime before the withdrawal from Gallipoli and probably 3 or 4 months after the 25th April Gallipoli landing. It was proposed to commemorate the 1st time that a Federated nation, Australia, had fought as a unified state, with its sister nation, New Zealand.

 

It has been commemorated every year on the 25th April ever since.

 

What does ANZAC Day mean to me?

 

It’s a question that I’ve been pondering for most of my life.

 

In part, for me, it is a deeply personal contemplation and empathy for those who – whether they volunteered or not, soldiers or civilians – were affected by war.

 

Men and women, friend and foe.

 

My 1st memories of ANZAC Day was sitting with my mother on the top of a deep, two-way cutting at the top of Main Rd and Susan St, Eltham. This gave a comfortable, mostly uninterrupted view of the march from the Main Rd shops to the RSL. (One side of the cutting is now gone – removed during road widening and sealing sometime in the ‘60s.)

 

The year was probably 1957 or 1958. We watched a slouch-hatted company of Khaki clad soldiers marching through the dust followed by a much larger group of marching men in civilian clothes, all with hats on and medals pinned to their left breast. I can still see them now. All headed to the local RSL just up the road for the service and the beer afterwards. My father was among them, as was quite a few of my future mate’s fathers.

 

At primary school the tale of Simpson and his donkey made a profound impression on me.

 

It still does.

 

Fact or fiction or a likely mixture of both, the tale of a bloke – a scallyway and rogue in civilian life apparently – his acts of bravery and ultimate self-sacrifice is a national tale to be proud of. To be emulated.

 

To be Australian.

 

Growing up, there were always quite a few war books around in the house, particularly the Army WW2 service books – Active Service, Soldiering On, Khaki and Green, Jungle Warfare, etc. Being a reader from an early age, I read them from front to back. If you haven’t read them, I urge you to do so. (They often turn up in 2nd hand bookshops and are relatively common and cheap, typically $5-$15. The Navy and RAAF had theirs to, but these are not as common.) They are principally composed of personal recollections of men on active duty, with a fairly comprehensive middle section describing the strategic direction of the war over the previous year. The stories are very much a mixed bag – some filled with that special brand that we would call “Australian” humour, and some pregnant with hidden horrors of lived experience and later contemplations. I commend them to you. (Be warned however, some comments and prejudices would not be considered PC today – they are very much a window to the times.)

 

I still often wonder what ANZAC Day meant to these blokes, these returned service men, what it meant for them. Particularly the “old” men, the WW1 men who are now all long dead, that my father drank with afterwards.

 

What did ANZAC Day mean to them?

 

When I 1st left school, in my “gap” year of 1973, I got a job on the local council, digging storm water drains. In my loose gang of 6 men, 3 were returned men from WW2. Only one was married, the other 2 single. All were alcoholics. I would pick up one – Scotty, the married one – on my way to work and he would neck a long-neck in a brown paper bag by the time we got to the council yard, at most 4 minutes away. At smoko, it was my job to hit the LG’s (licensed grocer) as soon as it opened (10 o’clock) and buy 3 long necks. One for each of them. None of them had their licence as they all knew that they couldn’t be trusted behind a wheel. Probably also they had no money to buy and run a car. Right after work, it was straight down the pub. Four or five years in the army as teenagers and young adults, fighting the Japanese army in a guerrilla war in Kokoda, the Finisterre’s and the Huon Peninsular, Bougainville, Tarakan, Balikpapan and after, as occupying troops in Japan (combined with the drinking Army culture) put paid to them. What a great preparation for life as young men….

 

They were great blokes, Scotty, Lenny and Ian, really great men……. but they were buggered. Really buggered.

 

Poor. smashed bastards.

 

What did ANZAC Day mean to them?

 

My wife’s best friend and neighbour growing up, Barbara Kueffer, had Austrian parents, Ricky and Anne. They were refugees. Anne called herself a “boat person”. After being imprisoned for resisting the annexation of Austria by Hitler, Ricky was drafted into the German Air force, spending 4 years on the Russian front destroying aircraft and tanks and trying to survive as an anti-aircraft gunner using the infamous 88. His best mate in Australia, Max Spence, was in bomber command.  Comparing their respective war diaries, they realised that during one period of the war they were directly pitted against one another. They had a good laugh about how they were both literally doing their level best to kill each other. They would go to the ANZAC Day service together (although Ricky didn’t wear his medals).

 

What did ANZAC Day mean to them?

 

Anne’s Christian father married a Jew, and although somehow her mother survived, the rest of her mother’s family didn’t. Her family wound up in Berlin just in time for the Battle of Berlin. Bombed by the Americans by day, the British by night, they lived in fear of the Gestapo the rest of the time. When the Russians invaded, all the women in Berlin were systematically raped on Stalin’s orders. Anne was 20 or 21.

 

What did ANZAC Day mean to Anne?

 

My school friend, Lynne, her father Bill did 49 missions – nearly 2 tours, near impossible odds – as navigator in Lancaster bombers over Germany and survived with a DFC to show for it. He returned to Australia with his English bride only to be hounded by ASIO for years as he had suspected “Communist sympathies”. Had trouble holding down a job (ASIO would “talk” to the employer), his marriage broke down, his wife returned to England and he was a sole parent of two children.

 

What did ANZAC Day mean to Bill?

 

Being a baby-boomer and a Hippy to boot, later I witnessed and engaged in the debate on the Vietnam War. Luckily for me, “It was Time” and Gough Whitlam came to power in December ’72. I had turned 18 that year and I was in the next draft which was cancelled. A lot that I were to meet and become friends with later in life – Gary, Tony, Jamie… – weren’t so lucky.

 

ANZAC Day was on the nose then as soldiers were sometimes pilloried in the streets. To compound the anguish, the official RSL line was (quote paraphrased): “The Vietnam War is not a real War and returned serviceman from this conflict do not have automatic rights to join the RSL.”

 

Can you believe that? It is unfathomable today. These blokes had nowhere to go…

 

Like the Adam Goodes Affair, it’s another deep, deep, shameful blight on the Australian collective character to cop this rubbish.

 

ANZAC Day was still held every year, however, in a very real sense, it was misunderstood and often and widely believed as a celebration of war.

 

Some still share that view.

 

This is the point. What does ANZAC Day mean to you? What does ANZAC Day mean to the nation?

 

Probably 6 or more months ago, I was listening on the radio to a visiting “expert” of some sort who had just visited the National War Museum in Canberra. He was struck by the fact that there is not one overarching reason – clearly and unambiguously stated – why these people died.

 

This observation has troubled me for years too.

 

Sure, they died for The Empire, their country, their family, their mates, their comrades, for freedom, etc.etc….. Our way of life perhaps? Like the latest round of xenophobic, small minded, blame shifting, migrant bashing, blatantly racist, so-called “Citizen Test” debate – no-one really knows officially what it means to be so-called “Australian” – there is not one generally pivotal and central accepted reason why these people sacrificed, if not their lives, their careers, their family, their hopes and aspirations, put their life on hold for years, to go and fight a war.

 

Why the sacrifice, why did they die?

 

What this is really all about – ANZAC Day, that is – is what another of my historical heroes – Abraham Lincoln – said at Gettysburg:

“…….we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Is this freedom? It’s really a collective freedom of “us”. It is not a freedom to do absolutely anything that what one likes. It’s a freedom that comes with real responsibility – a collective responsibility. It has boundaries. A responsibility that the Social Contract that we have as Human Beings and Australians have to ourselves, our families, friends and the wider society.

 

To quote Edmund Burke:

 

“Society is indeed a contract. It is a partnership . . . not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

 

That is why – to me – ANZAC Day is the most important day of the year.

 

It connects those who are dead: my father, Frank, and Scotty, Ian, Lenny, Ricky, Anne, Bill.

 

And Bob, Maurie, Alan, Carl, Sid, Jack, and all those others whose stories I don’t have both time or space to tell – to me, to my kids and their children. And their children.

 

I have a great life, my family has a great life – a really great life.

 

Thank you Dad. Thank you who served. Thank you, you who died. Thank you wives and mothers and friends who picked up the pieces…….

 

Thanks.

 

I have a responsibility to you.

 

I won’t forget.

 

 

ANZAC Day Football

 

“A common format found in the war diaries by Australian and New Zealand soldiers for the day commenced with a dawn requiem mass, followed mid-morning with a commemorative service, and after lunch organised sports activities with the proceeds of any gambling going to Battalion funds. This occurred in Egypt as well.”

 

The ANZAC tradition

 

I have attended a lot of the Collingwood Essendon games since they were 1st played in 1995, including the first drawn match. Probably half in total. I particularly remember the match in 2002, ascending the stairs in the old Ponsford Stand. All of the TV monitors were showing old war footage and over the images was this funny old tune, strangely familiar. I had to stop and listen. I realised that it was to the tune of “Good Old Collingwood Forever” but the words were different.  Goodbye Dolly Gray is an American marching song, made popular in Australia during the Boer War and picked up by The Club and officially re-written as our club song in 1906. You may disagree, however I felt then as now that it was right and proper to remember the past with a game of footy and this small moment firmed this up for me.

 

There is something about nearly 90,000 people standing, hatless, in  total silence, all considering the same thing which is incredibly powerful and moving.

 

You can hear the birds…

 

The Game, 2017

 

1st Quarter

 

Wells starts in the centre and Mr Silky in the forward line. The Dons jump us early and  goal at the 1min 30sec mark. The Pies look disorganised.  5mins in The Bombers kick their 2nd. Our forward line is incredibly congested compared to theirs. 2mins later our 1st really clear purposeful passage of play and Taylor Adams goals with a nice goal assist from Faz.

 

Cale Hooker, the other man-bun on the field, takes a good mark and goals.12mins in and the Essendon forwards are cutting us up. 15mins and  Faz has a set shot after a good bit of guts and determination and kicks a point. The Dons kick another. They just look better. We are getting back into it however they are winning the clearances and are cleaner in general play.

 

Collingwood are uncertain….Essendon are passing it around at will with no real pressure put on them. 24min mark, Daniher has a shot from 50 and misses. 4.2 to 1.2. 30min mark, Colyer has a shot on goal and misses.

 

Quarter time 4.3 to 1.2. Can’t believe we are so close – Essendon should be 7.0 or 6.1. They are keeping us in the game.

 

2nd Quarter

 

We start off just dandy with Jamie Elliot goaling with a minute on the clock. Mason Cox does a nice bit of roving and snaps a nice “touched” point. Umpire! Fair dinkum…

 

Wells is getting a few nice touches although looks a shade rusty, which is to be expected. Another let-off for The Pies as Tipungwuti kicks it out on the full. Lots of errors on the backline are putting us right under the pump. Essendon get a goal from the throw in; they are absolutely killing us around the stoppages at the moment. I don’t know who are manning up their followers, but man that was just too easy…

 

Daniher kicks a point and it’s 5.5 to 2.4. Sidey kicks an amazing goal, just snaps away and it keeps on bending left all the way to bend it through for a goal. 20mins in Heppell nails a set shot from a well deserved free, 6.6 to 3.4.  Faz nails one off the ground after some good clean work from Maynard and untidy but effective work from others. Taylor Adams kicks a point. Shocked that we are so close really although over the last 5 mins, The Pies seem to have more space… however, points to Crisp, Elliot and Fasolo are killing us – especially Crisp and Faz’s set shots. It’s 4.9 to 6.6. 31min and finally some reward for effort and Treloar nails a beauty. The Dons kick the last – out on the full.

 

Half time 6.6 to 5.9 – 3 points in it.

 

 

3rd Quarter

 

It’s press restart and go back to the 1st quarter and the backline is all at sea. The Dons miss two easy ones then get one with some appalling defensive work where we just let it bounce through for a goal. Another fugly just-get-it-forward-somehow goal is manufactured by a bit of instinctive cleverness from Elliot.

 

11mins in The Pies trail 58 to 45. Varcoe has been terrific all day as has Maynard. 2 goals from Goal assists from Ramsay and Maynard to give us a real sniff and then 1 minute later a great goal out of the centre from Daniher, Another goal to the Dons. Suddenly it’s 11.9 to 8.10. Ramsay has had a tale of two games –  a shocking 1st half, a bit of a purple patch, then back to being well beaten. Wells kicks a good one, even though it has gone to score review again when everyone knew it was a goal.

Three quarter time and it’s The Bombers 11.9 to  9.12 – 9 points down.

 

Last Quarter

 

Goal to the well-named Orazio Fantasia, his fourth.. we kick a point.  4mins in and they have another and it’s 13.9 to 9.13. At this stage, and I know it’s early, I really can’t see us getting back into this game  The Dons have their tails up…

 

Full time Essendon 100, The Woods 82. Dunno how it was so close really.

 

The wash up and votes

 

After four great games, Grundy had a dirty day. Treloar got stacks of the ball but wasn’t as effective as usual, Pendles was quiet and sometimes looked hesitant, Howe got better as the game went on as did Wells. Faz put in but missed bread and butter stuff, Adams tried all day. Varcoe was good as was Maynard. Crisp was good in patches, Cox wasn’t a disaster. The Sack was also very serviceable.

 

Philips, Broomhead and Moore – the less said the better.

 

Same goes for the coaching staff. I’ll let the Little Paper and talk-back shows set the agenda.

 

Votes:

 

I found this really hard – could’ve raffled  probably 6 players. Most played well generally however went missing at times or butchered the ball, turned it over or missed targets.

 

3                      Treloar

2                      Wells

1                      Maynard

 

Apologies to Howe, Goldsack, Adams and Varcoe

 

Floreat Pica

Comments

  1. bob.speechley says:

    You obviously overlooked Jeremy Howe when selecting Collingwood best players. He was a standout in my opinion.

  2. E.regnans says:

    On the commemoration of ANZAC – love it, Frank.

    Wonderful questions, posing of the questions.

    I’m regularly stunned by the tenacious certainty expressed on all sides.

  3. The meaning of ANZAC Day – brilliant Frank. Great food for thought. I agree with the notion that the fight for freedom means a fight for freedom with responsibility. This is something that needs far deeper thought today.

    Thanks for the piece.

  4. A wonderful and powerful read Frank. Anzac day – the alcohol and those men, the role of the RSL in not welcoming Vietnam Vets is oft forgotten ( well I might be generalizing my experience here).

  5. Frank Taylor says:

    Thanks for the comments fellas, much appreciated.

    Bob, I gave Maynard the vote in front of Howe because i thought he put in more of a 4 quarter effort, just.
    It’s great how everyone brings their own lens to the game.

    Dips – you are bang on the money.

  6. Great read uncle Frank, as always you make me think of things from another angle. I’m yet to read my books you gifted me, but I will.
    Great sacrifice is what I think of on the day.

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