Back in 2020 Captain Dylan Conway from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) spent 14 months virtually bedridden following surgery.
“As a means of keeping his mind occupied, Captain Conway read more than 100 books on self-development, from recounts of combat operations and philosophy to stories of perseverance in times of extreme hardship.”
This was the beginning of Conway’s initiative, Brothers N Books, which was initially aimed via Instagram at other Defence personnel, first responders and anyone else facing challenges.
As Brothers N Books gained momentum Conway started receiving donations of books for people in need. This has since grown to the charitable organisation setting up 15 free community libraries filled with uplifting books across Australia – and growing – with funds raised from the sale of merchandise.
Conway states that “The same way that diet, working out and socialising assist in living a happy, healthy life, reading books can also contribute to your overall wellness and health.”
Saw the documentary film Lee Kernaghan : Boy From The Bush on the weekend and am still soaring from the buzz. In no way a country music fan I saw Kernaghan in concert in a little country town pre-Covid and let me assure you country music in a rural township surrounded by Akubras is a totally different animal. Right up there amongst my favourite concerts, with the added bonus of The Wolfe Bothers. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
The movie includes archival clips from Kernaghan’s childhood and early career as well as spectacular views of the Australian outback in all its beauty and brutality. (Tip for Tourism Australia : Forget the “where the bloody hell are you” and “throw another shrimp on the barbie” campaigns*. Boy From The Bush is the real deal.)
Kernaghan is a musical story teller with a deep love of the land and its people. He has raised millions $$$ performing around the country to assist farmers struggling from drought, bushfire and flood. Absolute respect and he seems the sort a bloke with whom you could share a plonk and a cheese platter.
A new song about to be released in collaboration with Mitch Tambo and Isiah Firebrace, both indigenous, written whilst sharing a campfire on the banks of a river bank deals with reconciliation – Come Together – sent chills up the back of my spine.
In June I shared my plans to visit Yungaburra in North Queensland to visit The Avenue Of Honour in commemoration of the fallen in the Afghanista conflict. See Serendipity Part 1 : Yungaburra, FNQ.
Lee Kernaghan had written a song with lines taken from a letter written by Private Benjamin Chuck to his wife whilst deployed and held by the Australian War Memorial, for his Spirit Of The Anzacs CD which culminated in Ben’s Dad organising The Avenue of Honour in respect of his (late) son and his brothers in arms.
These will be the last holiday photos that I share but for anyone travelling to North Queensland, Yungaburra on the shores of Lake Tinaroo is an absolute must. I shed no tears, but rather, choked on the tranquility, the quiet beauty, and the powerful reminder of the young Australians lost during Afghanistan. This memorial parkland is just so well done.
Lest We Forget
* Aussie’s do not throw shrimp on the barbie. We do not have shrimp. We have prawns. We throw prawns on the barbie with a dash of oil and a couple of teaspoons of freshly crushed garlic. “Don’t come the raw prawn” means don’t tell lies or fibs. And blokes use Prawn as a derogative when a woman with a tantalising body has an unattractive head. End of todays kultya lesson
It’s been thirty years since my last significant visit to Townsville 1,400 kms north of Brisbane. I did visit fleetingly ten years ago and not so fondly remember the tropical heat pushing me to a pub at 11am for a refreshing G&T and having to take a minimum of four showers a day to stop from smelling myself in the humidity.
Townsville, Australia’s leading garrison city, has undergone some mammoth changes in recent years and is a vibrant centre which manages to meld its Indigenous, Military and Colonial histories in equal parts.
Case in point, Jezzine Barracks, named after a fierce battle at Jezzine in Syria in 1941, which is a definite addition to your Must Do List.
“The Traditional Owners of Garabarra are the Wulgurukaba people and the Bindal people, who retain an enduring ‘connection to country’ despite the impact of non-Aboriginal settlement in the area. For thousands of years Garabarra was the centre of a common food foraging area for local Aboriginal people – an area with immeasurable cultural and spiritual values.” – Wikipedia..
This area became a military base in 1886 and up until 2006 was very much Secret Squirrel territory. The area had been utilised for 120 years and is situated on the Kissing Point Headland on the northern end of The Strand, Townsville’s esplanade bordering the city central, with an outlook across to Magnetic Island and the Coral Sea.
Opened to the public in 2014 this 15-hectare heritage precinct now commemorates the military and Aboriginal heritage of the area, including majestic water views. There are 34 specially commissioned public artworks, extensive interpretive signage, a coastal walkway connecting to Rowes Bay, as well as the restoration of significant elements of the Kissing Point Fort complex.
The Seven Sisters – based on the seven sisters who came from the heavens to create all that was beautiful, being “Women’s Business”.
The site also includes the Army Museum of North Queensland – closed for my visit but I’ll be back there soon- as well as traditional plantings along the ethno-botanical walk, the Crossed Boomerang Amphitheatre, and the Kennedy Regiment Plaza ( which is bordered by it’s proud history).
The picnic and barbeque areas are popular with both visitors and locals and for a change of pace, a gorgeous little Art Gallery located in old army huts will provide your wallet with the opportunity to enjoy a little dance.
Next post I will cover the monument commemorating the The United States 5th Air Force Memorial that is featured at Jezzine Barracks. I’m still processing Townsville’s role in military history and it’s connection to the Battle of the Coral Sea ( which of course was not covered in our schooling. Please note sarcasm).
Born in New Zealand Nancy relocated to Sydney, Australia, as a child along with the rest of her family. She trained as a nurse and a journalist and moved to Paris in the 1930’s.
When World War 2 commenced she was living in Marseille with her French husband. When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Wake became a courier for an established escape network where she helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to Spain which was neutral. She herself fled to Spain in 1943 and continued on to the United Kingdom when the Germans became aware of her activities, calling her The White Mouse. Her husband was captured and executed.
In Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under the code name”Helene”. In April 1944 as a member of a three-person SOE team code-named “Freelance”, she parachuted into occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups, participating in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force weeks later. At the aftermath of the battle, a defeat for the maquis, she claimed to have bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London.
Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.
The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.
According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died. The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918. The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee. However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates. The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”
There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country, and their individual military heritage, were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A).
The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony. The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.
If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.
A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?
“It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore. Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’! Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.
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 :
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.
I recently located an interesting children’s book about Sister Marie Craig, one of the “Flying Angels” who cared for some 18,000 injured soldiers on flights from Papua New Guinea to the hospital in Darwin during WW2. After the misleading book about a cat who survived a sinking ship, Changi and Sandakan as mentioned with much disgust last week, I didn’t want to get caught out again, so checked the records at the Australian War Memorial. Sister Craig’s story is fair dinkum and is an interesting one……
So, whilst looking at records at the AWM, I discovered a new record under my father’s name which is out there on the internet for all the world to see. Their database contains the names of WW1 and WW2 soldiers, service numbers, rank, date of discharge and decorations and other basic information. I’m not sure about other Conflicts – records were still being digitalised at one point. It’s a user friendly database and you simply search using a name.
Service records are available for a fee and the AWM will post a copy of these documents. I ordered my father’s service documents after he died : 42 pages, which to be honest, apart from medical history, promotions, and changes of pay means little to me.
( I digress, but on my first visit to the AWM in Canberra as a young woman travelling with a young man who found it difficult to locate hotel accomodation because we were not married – Canberra being Australia’s porn capital no less – a research officer at the AWM explained veterans service documents by using the records of a deceased Prime Minister as an example. Though not fond of the deceased Prime Minister in question I was somewhat appalled that his medical records included a dose of VD during his time in a theatre of war which was clearly pointed out by the employee. So much for privacy.)
But back to the old man.
There is now a record that states under Collections that the AWM is in possession of my father’s leather bound diary from 15 April, 1943 to 24th August, 1945 that includes movements, roles, and flying missions etc. It also states ” entries describe leave, dances, the Boomerang Club and meeting girls”. Photographs, poetry, propaganda leaflets are also included as well as details of his marriage to an English sweetheart. ( Not my mother).
My father never discussed the War. It wasn’t until he was in his 70’s that he let things slip, like Dresden and how ” bloody cold” it was high in the skies above Europe. He wasn’t quite the hard old bastard by then.
There was never any mention of a diary nor a first wife.
My curiosity is piqued but it is not my life. It is a diary of a life before I was even a twinkle in the eye. A life 15 years before mine even started.
That these records of times past are retained for historians is a wonderful thing. I get that. What I don’t get is that there are 566 words included in the description of the diary’s contents available on a search under my father’s name on the Australian War Memorial’s website available for all and sundry to see.
I’m a little conflicted :don’t dead people deserve some privacy? I can hear the old bugger telling me to ” cop it sweet, Pet”, but it just doesn’t sit well.
The front cover of Red Lead – The Naval Cat With Nine Lives by Roland Perry grabbed my attention with the announcement ” the legendary Australian ship’s cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway”.
A $1 investment – what could go wrong?
61 pages in and my intuition kicked in necessitating the need to research some military websites, including the Australian War Memorial and the Naval Institute.
A work of fiction. Very misleading and disappointing. A total non-story.
The reality is Redlead, like many of the cruisers crew, did not survive the sinking of HMAS Perth and there was no Dan Bolt, the ex veterinarian who adopted the cat at sea.
Indeed one reviewer summed it up thus: “Finally in this case you can ‘judge a book by its cover’. The photo on the front cover of a cat sitting in the gun barrel is not Redlead; it’s the ship’s cat of HMS Cornwall taken in 1933. Also the front cover wording stating the “cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway” is false.”
61 pages. What a time waster!
Next up, The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French, another $1 investment.
I’ve mentioned Jackie French AM , Australian author, previously. Not only is she a historian, ecologist and wombat carer, she was 2014–15 Australian Children’s Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. Love her work, I really do.
Young Harry Kilometres, the grand child, is the product of a military family. Indeed, he was born in a rural and remote area of Australia because of his father’s military involvement. For overseas readers that means crocodiles, poison jellyfish, snakes galore, wild camels, and bison on the golf course. So little Harry is already ensconced in certain traditions. He’s been practising the manoeuvres to parachute out of a plane since he was three months old and his library of army history is already enviable.
So I just had to pick this book up for Harry’s bedtime reading for his coming visit. Beautifully illustrated by Bruce Whatley with a sprinkling of vintage photos and Jackie French, writer of children’s books.
I appreciate that Gallipoli was not an uplifting experience however this book is not the kind of book to hand to a child as a learning tool. Jackie and Bruce were clearly on the red wine when they dreamt up this concept. I’m thinking an Art Gallery or Museum would have been far more suitable.
And you know what? Two lousy books in a row can destroy your day.
Spring in South East Queensland lasted for all of a fortnight and then we pounced straight into Summer, evening storms and all.
The tomato plants have revelled in the heat and humidity and I have no doubt that the bandicoots that frolic in the vege bed at night will also be prone to acidic disorders from over indulging. The freezer is full of pasta sauce, a little heavy on the chilli and garlic apparently, and I’m now moving on to tomato chutney production. Not that I eat chutney but I can’t handle food waste. Blame the Depression parents who wouldn’t let us kids leave the table until the plates were clean.
The good news is that I will pull the remaining plants out on the weekend (before sunrise). The bad news is that means no tomatoes for summer salads and I’ll probably have to sell a kidney to afford them for Christmas Lunch.
Talking of waste, Australia has collectively moved away from single use plastics recently. Well done! So please explain somebody, anybody, why the shops are all full of plastic pumpkins. Crappy, cheap plastic pumpkins from China. 1. Why is Halloween becoming such a big deal in Australia? 2. Why is it that freight from China has been delayed since Covid but plastic pumpkins arrive in time for the end of October? 3. If children under 12 are not allowed to walk to school without parental supervision why are they allowed to go trick or treating? I’m not even going to mention the legalities of nazi teachers checking the contents of lunchboxes. I’m too old to open that Pandora’s Box. 4. If we really must instigate this Halloween business, how about next year we all plant some pumpkin seeds and harness our own food source?
So, you’ve figured that I don’t give a rats. Instead, and weather permitting, I plan on a much more appropriate celebration. Yep, a reenactment of the charge at Beersheba at the Laidley Pioneer Village. Entry is by donation.
Never heard of Beersheba?
On 31 October 1917, during World War 1, Australia’s Desert Mounted Corps led the famous charge of Beersheba by the 4th Light Horse Brigade, probably one of the most stunning victories in any battle or war in Australian history. This charge saw 800 Australian horsemen gallop their horses across three miles of open desert, through the Turkish defences, to win the precious wells of Beersheba.
The victory by the Australian horsemen, under the command of Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel against the Turks, was the beginning of a successful Australian campaign that led to the collapse of the Turkish Ottoman empire and turned the tide of war in the Middle East.
And I wont be watching anything starring Jamie Lee Curtis either. It’s the 1980’s Australian flick, The Lighthorsemen, or nothing. Forget the insipid romance between a young Sigrid Thornton and Peter Phelps before he got paunchy, it is a beaut little story and a reminder of old fashioned Aussie larrikins.
It would be totally hypocritical of me to wish you all Happy Halloween though I do hope you all play safely and that there are no chipped teeth from all those boiled lollies. I’ll be at Laidley – yee haa.
ADD TO 2022 TO DO LIST : Instigate a community pumpkin growing plan and eradicate all plastic pumpkins.
Did you know that there is a Queensland War Memorial Register, currently with over 1300 sites listed?
War memorials resulted from a ground swell of community sentiment going back to the Boer War when memorials were usually situated within cemeteries. With the mass casualties of the First World War affecting almost every family communal memorials in prominent public places were established as a tangible symbol of national mourning.
These memorials are ever so present in country towns where the names of the fallen indicate just how many local families lost their husbands, fathers and sons. Some are big, some are small. Each are poignant.
These are just a selection from my recent travels. I’ve always been a sucker for these memorials and how they correspond to a township’s history. When I was in my teens and working for Veterans Affairs ( then Repat) my dream was to travel Australia and photograph all those in small, country towns. Copped the ” responsibility lecture” instead. In those days I listened to what I was told. How things change.