Maryborough and The Story Trail – Part 2

A trail of murals along eight city blocks in Maryborough tell the quirky and serious stories of the city’s colourful past.

The Maryborough Story Trail has brought to life the stories of historic people and places through a series of bronze sculptures ( including Ms Mary Poppins), laneway murals, mosaic tiles and interactive screens showcasing short films.

Being flat makes this an easy and interesting walk for all ages with cafes, museums, and specialty shops to break up the two kilometre journey of over thirty murals and installations.

Local boy, Sam Hecker, was the first to fly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

My favourite installation is the recently completed Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Trail on the edge of beautiful Queens Park.

This includes a sculpture of Lt Duncan Chapman, born in Maryborough, who was the first ANZAC ashore at Gallipoli. He is standing on pavement made from the rock from the cliffs of Gallipoli and the wooden flower beds represent the boats. 

The Trail includes all the battles till Armistice Day with audio of the soldiers marching. It’s both eerie and fascinating.

Maryborough, I never knew you would be so welcoming. Back to see more soon…..

*Maps of The Story Trail are available from the Tourist Information Centre

Depiction of The Battle of Long Tan with Harry Smith, another local lad.

Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan

I’m currently wading through David Cameron’s The Battle Of Long Tan to better gauge the historical accuracy of the movie released this week, Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan.

Set in Vietnam in 1966 the 1st Australian Task Force headed by Brigadier David Jackson (Richard Roxburgh) is set up in Nui Dat where patrols are sent out into the local countryside. One night the camp is attacked by mortars and while the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery are able to target them, the 1st Field Regiment need to follow up the next day to find the source. Alpha Company don’t find anything, so Harry Smith’s (Travis Fimmel) Delta Company is sent out to chase them down while a rock show – with Little Pattie and Col Joye and the Joy Boys- is happening back at camp and with monsoonal rain forecast.

All goes well until at the rubber plantation at Long Tan the 11th Platoon of D Company comes under heavy fire and it is soon discovered that this is not just a raiding party but a full battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. 108 young and inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers fight for their lives against 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers.

My initial qualms were about how this would stack up against the big money American movies. And you know what? There was plenty of blood and guts though the point that war is ugly was made without the focus on missing body parts. Bravo.

The Battle is also told through the eyes of Harry Smith and the other leaders on the ground which means that the audience is in on the tactics. Thank you, producers, for taking into consideration that we don’t all have military backgrounds.

This is a very Australian (and Kiwi) movie and the young larrikins come across as brash until they find themselves under fire. The language is littered with colloquialisms  though I admit to being thrown by “ we’re not here to **** a spider”.

Strong performances by all concerned. Reviews are raving about Travis Fimmel’s performance. I found his eyes so mesmerising that I tended to lose focus for a moment or two – a bit Paul Newman-ish.

Whilst this movie didn’t enlighten me any as to the whys and wherefores of this war, it did perpetuate the ANZAC ideals of mateship, larrikinism, and sheer courage.

What I did learn was that the Artillery at Nui Dat fired almost non-stop for 5 hours in support of the battle and that artillery fire was eventually being brought in “Danger Close” to within 50 metres of the Australian position.

And also that the helicopter pilots were as mad as cut snakes.  I’m now chasing a copy of (pilot) Dr Bob Grandin’s book. See here: 

https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/a-helicopter-pilot-remembers-the-terrifying-battle-of-long-tan-as-new-film-premieres-20190613-p51xkx.html

I like a movie which leaves me curious. Vietnam was not discussed in schools back in the day. No political agendas. How things have changed….

I hope that these (now old) men receive the respect that they perhaps did not have previously.

Tip: Don’t rush out of the theatre. Read the screen right till the end. This is when you’ll be privy to a few sobs. Sitting in the dark in the quiet, I felt as if I’de been winded. 

***********

Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on the 18th of August, the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan for the men of D Company, 6RAR.

On the third anniversary of Long Tan, 18 August 1969, a cross was raised on the site of the battle by the men of 6RAR, honouring the 18 Australians who lost their lives.

In 2017 the Vietnamese Government made the decision to hand the cross back to Australia, as a gesture of “goodwill” (following a political incident which barred Veterans from visiting the cross in Vietnam for the 50th anniversary of the event. Just one of those little “incidents” that we must gloss over). It is now on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Villers-Bretonneux, #kindjuly and nuts.

I’ve just booked into an Author-In-Action presentation at the local Library. Can’t wait to learn more about Vicki Bennett’s children’s book, Two Pennies.

In April, 1918 the village of Villers-Bretonneux in France was the scene of the world’s first tank battle between British and German troops which the Germans would win, occupying the township.

The Ecole de Garcons (Boys School) was destroyed along with much of the town on the 25th April 1918 when the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades recaptured it from the Germans in a battle in which over 1,200 Australian soldiers were killed.

The school was rebuilt with donations from Australia. School children and their teachers helped the effort by asking for pennies- in what became known as the Penny Drive -while the Victorian Department of Education contributed 12,000 pounds to the War Relief Fund. The school was appropriately renamed ‘Victoria’. The inauguration of the new school occurred on ANZAC Day in 1927. “N’oublions jamais l’Australie“ (Never forget Australia) is inscribed in the school hall.

The Rugrats have just returned to school after a fortnight of holidays here in Queensland.

The Little Community Library proved a huge success with the generous addition of CDs, DVDs and books for the older kiddies to ease them through the break.

A fellow Little Library Custodian shared with me that it was #kindjuly. Did you know this? (Marketing gurus: aren’t they precious…..)

Kind July – Stay Kind
If every Australian did one act of kindness a day for the month of July, that would be 775 million acts of kindness in Kind July (and 9.3 billion acts of kindness every year).

And I’m off for a dose of Community Theatre tonight : My Husbands Nuts. Honestly, I’m too intimidated to add an apostrophe in case I get it wrong.

Happy Trails:)

Christobel Mattingley and Battle Order 204.

We recently lost Australian author Christobel Mattingley, aged 87 years.

Mattingley was an award-winning author of books for both children and adults. Rummage won the Children’s Book of the Year Award: Younger Readers and Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book in 1982.

In the 1996 Australia Day Honours Mattingley was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “service to literature, particularly children’s literature, and for community service through her commitment to social and cultural issues”.

Her most recent book is Maralinga’s long shadow: Yvonne’s story, which was published in 2016 and won the 2017 Young People’s History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

I was introduced to the writing of Mattingley late in the game after reading Battle Order 204 about her husband David’s experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II.

Battle Order 204 is a historical, non-fiction novel that recounts the experiences of the bomber pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with No. 625 Squadron RAF. It follows Mattingley’s dream to one day be a pilot and his journey from start to finish into the skies of Europe during the second world war.

The book is centered on the mission in which his Arvo Lancaster- after being struck three times shattering his hand and badly wounding his leg- was safely returned to the airfield in which it had launched from beating the crews proposal to abandon the wrecked aircraft, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The book contains photographs, logs and other images of Mattingley’s experiences throughout his service.

The books point of difference was that it was written in a manner to engage the Young Adult demographic. Of course I purchased several copies for younger members of the family.

Plants For Wounded Heroes

I’m no Green Thumb. I lack the necessary patience, though I do enjoy having natives in the garden to attract birds, bees and bandicoots. Hailing from parents who lived through the Depression I also enjoy produce from my fruit and vegetable gardens. Little effort required and the pumpkin vines are currently taking over the tiny back lawn.

On the iconic quarter acre block that I grew up on, the so-called Australian Dream, (long since battle-axed for the prolific development of McMansions) we grew all our own Veges as well as having the backyard chook shed for eggs and a couple of additions to the table at Christmas. Chicken in the Basket was a family favourite, though after having just read Tom Clancy’s The Teeth Of The Tiger, I don’t think I’ll ever think about that meal in the same way.

The parental vegetable garden was a staple right until the end. Indeed, my father’s casket was covered with home grown spinach and tomatoes which I cooked up at the wake with garlic and pasta complementing the depletion of the contents of the wine cellar.

Since my retirement I’ve taken cuttings of plants which I have nurtured and then sold at a local market on a semi regular basis. Preloved books also find new homes and I am lucky in that several friends donate saleable items. This is my form of aerobics : stretching, bending, reaching (some groaning) and Vitamin D.

Rosemary plants are popular sellers

All monies raised go to Wounded Heroes which assists our exservice men and women at a grassroots level. This non Government funded organisation finds crisis accomodation for our vets, funds accomodation and fuel for medical appointments, and assists with real hardship cases. Recently, an exserviceman with a young family was diagnosed with his third bout of cancer. Wounded Heroes came to the fore with funds to assist with travel costs and parking fees. The day after Anzac Day a young exserviceman committed suicide. The Government covered the funeral cost, but it was Wounded Heroes that paid for the casket to be transported 1000 kms away to his home town. With a volunteer escort. Respect.

Succulents also sell well

So I play in my garden and sell a few plants. Sadly, I am unable to replicate the beautiful Bat Plants despite numerous attempts. This is a real shame as I always wanted to be called Bat Woman. Even had a little leather number on the drawing board.

NOTE:

I am not responsible for any actions which may occur when someone tells me “ there is nothing to do”.

On The Must Do Movie List

I know I recently said that I’m not a regular at the cinemas. Much more comfortable in my own home with dark chocolate or Camembert and a glass of vino. Often at this time of year with a knee rug. No shame, the rug is of good quality. Hides the flanelette pjs.

Two movies have gained my interest and both will be released within weeks:

Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan

Cross from Long Tan at the AWM

Robert The Bruce

I am conflicted about this one as I haven’t forgotten that Angus Macfadyen betrayed William Wallace. Down Under Remembers……

My apologies. I had meant to attach clips but WordPress is not cooperating and has done my head in. Not a happy Vegemite! Grrrrrrrr!

I’m also in the process of culling all the cheap second hand DVDs purchased at markets during summer. With it getting dark around 5pm it is so easy to slip into hibernation mode in winter. Just as well Music Trivia has restarted with its $15 Chicken In Pyjamas and complimentary drink.

Keeping A Girl Happy 101

This lot of DVDs and more books ( I tell ya, everywhere I go people give me books) are going to the local Special School. The physically and intellectually disadvantaged kiddies hold a monthly market whereby they raise funds for their school, and learn such skills as listening to and following instructions, handling money, customer service, communication, and merchandise placements. All good stuff.

  • Disappearing for a week. Log fires and wineries:)

Book Review: Brother Digger by Patricia Shaw

Nearly thirty years ago I picked up a book for 50 cents at a discount store in Adelaide, South Australia. I had two toddlers and a husband who had a predilection for Italian shoes and bespoke suits. It was all I could afford. 

Brother Digger sparked my interest in Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway and provided the impetus to spend (a lot) more money on books about the subject. I’ve told the daughters that when I’m cremated this book is coming with me. It’s the story of the Sullivan brothers, not to be confused with the tv series, The Sullivans, nor the 1944 movie The Fighting Sullivans.

This one changed my life trajectory.

Patricia Shaw is an acclaimed Australian novelist. A teacher and political journalist before becoming head of the Oral History Department of the Parliamentary Library, it was during this period that Shaw wrote Brother Digger after a conversation with her neighbour, Frank Sullivan. 

Drawn from the reminiscences of the Sullivan brothers, and the friends that fought beside them during World War 2, Brother Digger is the true story of the five Sullivan brothers from Queensland who all enlisted in the 2nd AIF.

The Sullivans lived in rural Toowoomba, in a family of twelve children. Parents, James and Sylvia, did it tough during the Depression, though always managed to find sustenance for any callers looking for a feed.

Each of the Sullivans had a different war, and the author managed to interview all except the eldest, Jack, who passed in 1969. The information provided by each of these men, forty years later, is conversational in tone, personal, and none of them hold back. This makes the history feel real. Steve says of the Fall of Singapore, “There were no fortifications. It was another bloody balls-up.”

Although not big in size some of the stories within this book are huge. Jack and Steve had major authority figure issues with English military personnel yet both were leaders of men. Eugene makes several long term friendships at Changi, including Ringer Edwards on whom author, Neville Shute, based the character Joe Harmon in A Town Like Alice.

My favourite quote comes from the father, James, who said to his sons, “Bloody mad going off to fight for the British again. Will Australians never learn? And that Menzies! He’ll sing God Save The King and do exactly what the British tell him to do.”

Lt. Jack Sullivan served in Tobruk and PNG.

 Lt. Eugene Sullivan served in Malaya and Singapore, and was incarcerated at Changi POW Camp before being sent to work on the Burma Railway.

Frank served in the Middle East, was captured by the Italians and shipped to Italy. When the Italians surrendered he was transferred to a German stalag for the duration.

Steve joined the Citizen Military Services, or the chockos (as in chocolate soldiers that melt under pressure). He was awarded the Military Medal for his service in PNG.

Vic, eighteen at enlistment, served in PNG.

Each of the men have a fascinating story which is entwined with events at home. Telegrams are received, there’s a family wedding, the collation of Red Cross parcels, and Sylvia proudly receives her Female Relatives Badge with five stars.

It touches upon their reintegration into society at wars end. Eugene made a claim for medical conditions from his incarceration, including scratched eyeballs, a Japanese punishment ( not included in their records), and ulcerated legs, which were declined by Repatriation. He never appealed having been told he was a “bludger” and “no hoper”.

This is history at its best, a personal history and an insight into a slice of Australian life. It is filled with honesty and humour despite the ugliness of war.

Is there any particular book that made a change to your life?

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