Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :

https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/3246

Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

14 thoughts on “Some Military Stuff….

  1. Leah

    I didn’t know that they were worried about the Japanese invading the east coast. Sounds like a good book, I love books that give out little snippets of information like that :O)

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    1. There are often really fascinating tidbits in these family memoirs that give you a better insight into how people lived in days gone by. I read some documents recently about my own mother who as a child ate a jelly sandwich for Xmas lunch during the Depression. Gave me a better understanding why she would get so exasperated when I would not eat all my vegetables as a kid.
      Hope it is cooler today : over it!

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      1. How lovely to have some reference material about your mother to look back on. Yes their generation had it hard in many ways but so different to today’s trial and tribulations. Raining and cooled down this morning, thank goodness. Yesterday went for booster jab then spent rest of the day under the aircon reading and then painting.

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  2. Fascinating history and it is quite telling that even though the daughter worked on the farm dear old dad decided not to pay her once her brother returned… I’m pretty sure she did a man’s worth of work too! I wonder if that thinking still persists in your country or in mine? I hope the flooding didn’t damage the park or the statues therein!

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    1. Muri, I too was interested in the sexist overtones though I believe things have changed in that area. However, I did read recently the autobiography of an Aussie author who helped her family on the farm and had a degree Agriculture. When she married she brought her new husband into the family business. A few years later they divorced and her father opted to keep the son in law on at the farm and not his daughter. Land ownership seems to run on different rules apparently. Incidentally, she has gone on to own her farm and is doing big thing in the area of land regeneration. Good luck to her!

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  3. Moving sculpture commemorating a horrific military disaster. Puts me in mind of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, one of the most powerful anti-war songs I know (… “And those that were left, well we tried to survive / In that mad world of blood, death and fire / And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive / Though around me the corpses piled higher / Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head / And when I woke up in me hospital bed / And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead / Never knew there was worse things than dyin’…”) Deeply moving, dee[ply tragic.

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      1. Just listened to “Only 19”, got tears in my eyes right now. Never heard it before, nor heard of the Battle of Long Tan (the traumas of the Vietnam War aren’t well known here in the UK as we had no combatants in it). The YouTube version I listened to plays over excerpts from the movie which, inevitably, I’d also not heard of. Together, the lyrics and images bring the horrors of that conflict (which took place over half a century ago!) vividly to life. I share your appreciation of “story songs” and this is one of the best / most moving I’ve heard in a long, long time. Thank you for introducing me to it

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