“The war to end all wars” …what disillusion in his voice. Perhaps he believed it when he went off to do his bit for the “mother country”, yet he rarely spoke of the war, was a cheery person and a fun Dad.
He enlisted in 1916 and was wounded in April 1918 at Villers Bretonneux where he had lost many comrades. He spent many months in hospital in England with shoulder and hand injuries. He had also contracted tuberculosis. Although he was told he would never use his hand again, he exercised to improve it. Years later he would sometimes amuse us kids by writing with both hands at once. I didn’t understand about the long convalescence which had led to this ambidextrous trick. I only knew he had a missing finger and big gather scars in his shoulder and hand.
He often took us to, but never marched in, the Anzac march. He and his small group of surviving friends kept in touch down the years. Dad was not a drinking man. He spent the weekends with the family or in the garden. Also, we had a wind-up gramophone and sometimes he played the old war songs, skits and the loved music of the times. Occasionally, he amused us by dancing round like a dainty elephant. On wet days he would march us round and round the verandah for exercise. We thought it great fun. After Sunday School, he would collect us on sunny days and take us on long walks, telling us rambling stories, often about gremlins.
He was very caring of those returned soldiers in our town who had been gassed and of their widows and families. Many of those men didn’t survive long. We three children had piano lessons from one widow and another helped my mother on washdays. Dad met many people as he worked round the town. He also became a Mason and helped with their charity programme.
We had nearly a dozen fruit trees; several varieties of apple, two plum, two cherries and one pear; also a chook yard and a splendid vegetable garden. We didn’t need to buy eggs or vegies. Pumpkins dried on the laundry roof. Onions hung in the garage above sacks of potatoes, wheat, shell grit and bran. During the depression years and by WWII, Dad had already established a “victory” garden in our long backyard. The fowls provided plenty of manure. The trees were properly pruned and the garden tended with care.
He was very sad there had to be another war. I don’t believe any serviceman would have wanted war after what they had seen and experienced. He joined the VDC (Volunteer Defence Corps) as did my under-aged brother. My cousins came from the city to farewell him as they went off to war. He listened intently to the news bulletins and we children never made a sound. WWII was a sad time.
Nevertheless, he created a happy life with my Mum for we three children and he enjoyed life in our town. As well as walks in the bush he often took us for picnics and drives in the countryside. We lived simply but contentedly during and after WWII.
Sometimes he said he was going up the backyard to see Parson Greenfield. There he communed with his own little peaceful world.