Hi I'm Leeta. Some of you know me and some don't. I have become a First World War researcher in particularly looking at the 1st Battalion A.I.F and a battle which took place on November 5th 1916 near Gueudecourt.
What does ANZAC day mean? What does it stand for? For some people, they believe we should not hold such a day as it glorifies war, but having the freedom to express such ideas is part of what it stands for, for me. For the rest of us it is a time to remember those that have come before us and those long lost who sacrificed their safety and their lives for us.
It is time to remember a nation finding its feet, taking its first steps into the world as one country. It is time to remember our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and uncles who we will never get the chance to know as they died fighting in a foreign land or came back with part of themself forever hidden from the outside world and from those who weren’t there.
I have to admit growing up ANZAC Day didn’t mean as much to me as it does today. Being a child who didn’t have any living relatives that had fought I didn’t have a strong emotional attachment to this day. I knew my pop was in World War 2, but didn’t feel anything. This is a problem that as time goes on more and more Australians will face. My emotional attachment to this day has changed because I have had the chance to get to know a man who died 63 years before I was born. My grandfather grew up knowing of this man but not knowing him, as he was only 3 years old when this man went off to war and 4 years old when he died. I am talking of my great-grandfather.
A couple of you know part of the story of my great-grandfather and what I am trying to do for him and other 1st battalion soldiers. He was killed in action near Gueudecourt, on the Somme November 5th 1916. Four months later on March 3rd 1917 he was buried along with other soldiers of the 1st Battalion, A.I.F where they had fallen. Unfortunately due to continued fighting the cross erected in the middle of their graves vanished. In 1919 when the military went to the coordinates of the March 1917 burials they couldn't find most of the graves, so these men were classed as having no known grave and had their names placed on the walls at Villers-Bretonneux and Canberra.
In trying to find and prove where my great-grandfather lies today I discovered the stories of lives whom in
A poem I have come across in my research comes to mind whenever I do wonder what they were thinking. It is called ‘The Men on your Left and Right’ and I will read it for you now:
The Men on your Left and Right
By Robert De Groff 4/25/08
"It really don't matter what side you're on, Son"
The Sergeant says to me
I listened real close for I was a lad
And not even twenty-three
"You were sent by your Country, or God or King
It's a soldier's lot to die
So I'll tell you what you're fightin for"
And he looks me in the eye
"For freedom", says I.
"That's probably it!"
"Or maybe to save mankind!"
"Or to keep the world all safe and sane
And make sure it don't unwind"
"For your Family and Home and your Flag so dear!"
I knew I had it at last!
I heard the shells scream overhead
And the trench shook from the blast.
The Sergeants eyes they held me still
My own stayed open wide.
With a click, he fixed his bayonet
His head shook side to side.
"No Lad", he said.
"That's just not it.
That's what them civilians think.
A soldier's thoughts are simpler still",
And he gives me a quick sad wink.
"A soldier's got no time to think of such grand things ya see.
No King or Queen in this here trench.
Just the Lads, and you, and me"
"You fight for the men on your left and right.
It's just as simple as that.
Now load yer rifle, tighten your belt
And don't forget your tin hat."
"If you're still alive tomorrow" he says
You'll long remember this day.
You'll remember the men on your left and right
When you hear the pipers play"
"So on your feet Lad,
It's just about time
Wipe that mud off your pistol sight.
We're in for it now, so le’s give 'em Hell
We may see it ourselves tonight!"
He smiled at me then and chuckled no doubt
At my brief patriotic vent
Then the flare gun went off, and I blew my whistle
And over the top we went.
I would now like to take a moment to consider the men honoured on this cenotaph and all the others they stand for. This cenotaph stands for all the wars long gone and unfortunately those yet to come.
The following is a poem I wrote about this cenotaph.
By Leeta Rutherford
A memorial stands alone among a dried out lawn and gravel,
Backed by plants and a near by cannon,
Guarded by two empty flag poles.
To the left, to the right and behind life goes on,
A tennis court, growing gardens and buildings,
Everyday living though the noise seems dulled.
You stand in front of this memorial and you can hear,
The wind rustling through leaves, little birds singing a soft song,
And chimes softly being played by the wind.
Flags are flown,
Half mast once yearly,
A ceremony to commemorate as well.
About fifty people,
Sit, reflect, remember and cry inside and out,
In front of this memorial, this stone.
The brave men of the district,
Who fought and lost in both World Wars,
Are immortalised in gold writing, in stone, in the memorial.
Their stone, their memorial is a place for thousands to be remembered,
For one to be remembered, for tears and reflection,
This year while I sit in front of their stone, their memorial,
When I cry for my great-grandfather and for my pop,
I’ll make sure I spare a tear.
I’ll spare a tear for those who fought and died in World War 1 and 2
I’ll also make sure I spare a tear for those who fought and died in other wars.
And I’ll make sure I spare a tear for the families affected.
To end today I just wanted to touch briefly on why ANZAC day is held on April 25th. Not many people realise the full reason for why April 25th was chosen for our day of remembrance. People believe it is because this was the day 95 years ago that the ANZACs first stepped into the First World War at Gallipoli. This is part of the reason, but not the whole reason.
Three years after landing at Gallipoli April 25th 1915, the Australians fighting on the Western Front were involved in a decisive attack which some say turned the war towards its end and towards the British Imperial Forces winning. This attack happened very early in the morning of April 25th 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux. Because of the Australian’s success in this attack at Villers-Bretonneux and their involvement at Gallipoli, April 25th was chosen as the day of our remembrance.
Thank-you so much for listening.