The Muse: Musings on Anzac Day





Well it looks like winter might be setting in and jeez if a man ever needed an Abbotts and a Capstan Ready Rubbed it’s when the first winds of winter set in. Sorry, I apologise, I need to rephrase that to be inclusive in my speech ‘if a man or a woman or a person of whatever gender[s]  they choose to identify with ever needed an Abbotts and a Capstan Ready Rubbed …’


It’s Anzac Day, on Sunday, which to my mind is truly Australia’s National Day. Tonight I had a couple of Longnecks rolled a Capstan and commenced to muse on a few things. It’s not for me to extol the virtues of war, which is a terrible thing, and I am not sure if anyone wins particularly in modern warfare. However we should always respect and honour the sacrifices and spirit of all those who have fought either unwillingly or willingly for Australia and New Zealand in all conflicts from the Boer War through to Afghanistan.


What I really mused about is the three big conflicts, World War I, World War II and Vietnam and just what those brave young people thought victory would achieve. There was no victory in Vietnam, the bullshit war, which if your marble fell the wrong way in the ballot you got ‘lucky‘ and had to participate. Bit like getting lucky to participate on the TV show ‘Blind Date’ and then choosing the girl who looked like the ugly stepsister. All of a sudden you were disappointed you didn’t pick Dexter.


What did Albert Jacka think he was going to fight for when he left his timber cutting job and enlisted at Wedderburn Junction in 1915 as a 22 year old to fight for King and Country. What was he fighting for when he was awarded the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli? What was he fighting for when he was awarded the Military Cross at Pozieres and suffered no less than seven wounds? What was he fighting for at Bullencourt when he was awarded a bar [second award] to add to his Military Cross and finally was evacuated after a stray bullet pierced his trachea. In 1920 Albert arrived home after recuperation and eventually became mayor of St Kilda where he was recognised as a champion for returned soldiers and the unemployed. Albert died aged 39 in 1932 as a consequence of never recovering from his war injuries. Oh dear! Albert tell me when you were storming trenches and taking out machine guns what was your vision for Australia?


When the six Smith brothers from Yongala enlisted, what was the Australia they envisaged would emerge as a consequence of their endeavours. Yongala is a small town north of Adelaide [near Peterborough, current population 240 ] and Herbert, Frederick, Alfred, Clarence, Errol and Aubrey all enlisted and fought in Europe in World War I. Errol and Aubrey enlisted under false names to circumvent the need for parental permission. Sadly Herb, Fred, Alf, Clarrie, Errol and Aub never made it back to Australia to roll a Capstan and enjoy an Abbotts and tell us what  they thought the Australia  they died for might look like.  I digress, but how good are those Christian names. In a world full of Jaydens, Tysons, Thors, Quinns  and Zanes give me an Errol or an Alf or a Herb or even a Clarrie any day .


How about the seven Hutchins brothers, from Woorinen, a tiny town near Swan Hill, who all  enlisted in World War II to protect and fight for the Country they loved and are front and centre in a photo resplendent in uniform with their proud  parents. What was their vision for Australia and the world? Only three of the brothers returned to tell the tale and they weren’t up for telling tales it seems.



Now I am a simple man and the Smiths and Hutchins were simple men who fought in simpler times. Perhaps they enlisted for a lark, perhaps they enlisted as disciples of the British Empire, perhaps they enlisted because they didn’t want the dreaded ‘coward’s’ white feather put in their letter box , or perhaps they enlisted to do their bit to preserve the freedom and lifestyle they enjoyed. What did they contemplate as they were up to their knees in mud and the blood and guts of their dead comrades and surrounded by the agonising screams of their dying mates calling for their mums and dads and wives (with babes at arms) and girlfriends and sisters and brothers. Oh, what did they think they were fighting for? I wouldn’t pretend to know what these brave men and women were desperate to preserve, but I am prepared to venture a view as to what they weren’t fighting for:


A country where water rights, the lifeblood of farmers, can be bought and traded by companies and individuals with no rural holdings. How would the Hutchins boys feel about that?


A country where [Victoria] a panel of fat-arsed public servants who have never been north of Sunbury determine that farm manure is industrial waste and instead of being used to fertilise the farm on which it is produced needs to be disposed of under the regulations surrounding disposal of industrial waste.


A country where a cartoon dog Bluey engenders a debate as to not being inclusive because there are no single parent dogs or disabled dogs included.


A country where an aspirational job for the youth is to become a social media influencer which encompasses not much more than pouting your botox filled lips and flaunting your silicone pumped breasts or  pecs  down a camera, saying something stupid and promoting a product. When Albert Jacka set off to war an aspirational job was to become the head stockman or to run your Dad’s farm. Note: both of the latter involved real work.


A world which, via social media has created a platform for the perpetually aggrieved who in days gone by were relegated to a seat in a corner and known as the town whinger. “ ‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan, in accents most forlorn” comes to mind from the magnificent poem ‘Said Hanrahan’ by John O’Brien. The Hanrahans now have a platform and sadly the world is paying credence to Hanrahan.


A world where the basic tenet of justice ‘innocent until proven guilty’  seems to have flipped to ‘We in the media and social media have deemed you guilty, and you need to prove your innocence and in the interim you are ostracised.‘


A country where politicians waste millions of dollars on Royal Commissions to tell us what we already know, and what they don’t want to tell us, as it might affect their tenure.  I am tipping the Royal Commission into the casino might reveal that dirty money is laundered in casinos.


A country supposed to be a Federation of States which in crisis [Covid] splits into a series of Fiefdoms run by  Emperors. I leave Gladys and New South Wales out of that accusation .


A world where the highest seat of democracy is trashed by a blustering salesman wearing orange make up .


A country where returned service people are committing suicide at alarming rates because the morass of bureaucratic red tape they have to wade through to obtain help is overwhelming .


I could go on but I think I have made my point. Saturday I will wander down to the Joe Brown Oval and watch Keilor play Pascoe Vale. Importantly, I will watch the awarding of the Roy McGregor Medal to the Keilor player who has best exemplified the Anzac spirit in the game. Roy was a Keilor footballer who died in World War I and in one his last letters home to his mother wrote: “It’s Saturday afternoon but I won’t be playing football for Keilor today.” On Sunday I will attend my local service and partake of an Abbotts or three, roll a Capstan and reflect on the efforts of all those women and men who made sacrifices beyond our comprehension to make this country a better place. Perhaps if they could have seen the future they may have thrown the towel in and we would all be working in Toyota or Mercedes factories.


Young John, the postman, day by day

In sunshine or in rain

Comes down our road with words of doom

In envelopes of pain


What cares he as he swings along

At his mechanic part,

How many times his hands let fall

The knocker on a heart?


He whistles merry scraps of song

Whatever his bag contain

Of words of death, of words of doom

In envelopes of pain



‘War Time’ by Mary E Fullerton



Lest we Forget



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  1. Refreshing read Drizzle. Not with you 100% but I found this refreshing.

  2. Fine piece. Similarly I agree with maybe half your critiques at the end, but the point of your piece is powerfully made.
    I’ve been musing all week on a conversation I had after golf with a competitor who connected his daughter going off the rails on drugs with the legalisation of gay marriage (the decline of moral standards argument – it’s society’s fault). My main conclusion is how emotion and facts are strangers to each other. We see the world subjectively, but it marches relentlessly onward to it’s parochial/consumer/capitalist/authoritarian drumbeat.
    What I think Jacka, Smith and Hutchins would have all wished (and Jacka fulfilled) was to stay home and make St Kilda, Yongala and Woorinen kinder, gentler places. But they needed to see the world to know what they were taking for granted.
    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Interesting read, Drizzle – I agree with some of your points, but not others. Such is in keeping with the society we live in, and different views on particular matters are part of it.

    Now that I’ve read your Anzac influenced piece, I encourage you to read mine, a series of eight short poem on particular WW1 soldiers that appeared on The Footy Almanac site yesterday. I also have an Albert Jacka piece published earlier.

  4. A really good and insighful piece. Likewise I agree with some, but not all, of your points, and I think that’s ok. It still didn’t stop me from enjoying your piece. Even the points I didn’t agree with, I can still accept them and see where you are coming from.

    Even the blokes you mentioned in your piece would have differed in their views on many things, probably even on why they joined up and what they were ultimately fighting for. But that’s ok, they still came together when there was a job to do. Liberal, labor, protestant, catholic, city, country, it all goes out the window once the shooting starts.

    It seems to me that we are having trouble accepting and overcoming our differences these days. Maybe this is exacerbated by the ever-expanding media and social media?
    It always seems to be this confrontational thing, all or nothing, with us or against us, left v right, woke v whatever not woke is. Pick a side. If you oppose me you are my enemy. The centre is for the weak and the fence-sitters etc etc.

    Could we even come together today in the same manner they did in WW1 or WW2?

    Thank you for your thought-provoking piece.

  5. Hayden Kelly says

    Thanks guys for your comments and Kevin thanks for your poetry .Regardless of what we don’t agree on I think we might agree we are lucky to live in Australia as the positives far outweigh the negatives .

  6. Agreed!

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Agree, too, Hayden!

  8. Daryl Schramm says

    I read this first a few days ago. I read it to my 89 yo mum in a nursing home on Sunday. She can’t see too much, but for an old last with dementia, she was most interested. A really thought provoking piece. Thanks for posting.

  9. I had five grand uncles fight in the ‘Great Trade War’. Four returned, all damaged to varying degrees. Why did five brothers of Irish Catholic heritage leave Corowa to go around the world for a King who oppressed the people in their land of origin?

    You don’t mention the two conscription referendums held in Australia during this war, where we twice voted NO. The war was not the universally popular event revisionist history may want us to believe.

    Like the furphy about Anzac Day being truly Australia’s National Day. A day when our troops took part in a disastrous invasion of another land, a campaign that was a military disaster costing many thousands of lives for what gain? When I was young Anzac Day was a solemn event, a day to commemorate those that had served, especially those that had now fallen. It was a day of respect. Now we celebrate it, as some sort of day of great achievement: sad.

    In light of the mess brought about by the ineptitude of the NSW state government allowing the Delta strain to run rampant along the East Coast of Australia, as well as over to Aotearoa ,I wonder if you still rate Gladys and NSW higher than the rest of Australia?


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