Poem – Reflections from the Fallen

War can never be divorced from the terrible misery it brings, not only to combatants but their loved ones as well in far distant places, always wondering, praying and waiting. An address to Saint Mary’s College  –  Anzac 2020

WW1 was certainly such an example when Australia committed a high percentage of its small population to fight in foreign fields. History has recorded a very significant ratio in regards casualties to population and which was higher than most of her allies. The terrible hidden consequences became slowly but surely unmasked in early post war years. 

The nation had been bled so much of its potential for the future. Young men and women who had stepped forward as volunteer to serve their country were lost in the maelstrom of war. So many others who thought they had survived the horrors never could adjust back to what had been. They were the hidden casualties of war long after the last shot had been fired. 

Our history has captured the immense courage, love of country and devotion to duty in unbelievable trials of hardship and danger.  Not surprisingly, the most evident and very powerful armour our troops had was mateship. It embraced sharing, caring, even when rolling the dice of death to determine who lived or died. Each and every day in a living bloody hell known as the front line, and yet they never did falter, lose their faith, and always the familiar constant smiles and wry humour in the face of terrible adversity. 

Their fears, dreams and devotion to duty were identical with those of the nurses who tended the wounded in dangerous and Spartan conditions behind the front line.  Soldier and nurse were as one, in what was and always will be the military family. 

There were so many next of kin who received more than one visit from the official messengers of wounds and death. The tortuous grief was repeated for some luckless families more than once, even three times or more.

So many sad houses with empty bedrooms and cupboards cluttered with dusty footballs, racquets and cricket bats. On walls and tables are smiling young faces in wooden frames. Among them are brothers from the same families we now read of.

I do hope you will reflect deeply on this journey back to the last century to the genesis of the ANZACs and their subsequent deeds. No matter what family tree, race, religion or colour, the most beautiful treasure to emerge from the agonies of war were the qualities the ANZACs had demonstrated. Such strengths bonded them together and the torch they lit has been carried by subsequent generations, and is brighter and ever for all to see.

Such lessons from the past are of immense value to us in these difficult times. It needs no war to capture their wonderful qualities such as resilience, humour, mateship, courage, acceptance of responsibility, respect, discipline and faith in self and country.  They would urge you to use such qualities to master each and every challenge which confronts you in life. If you stand together you will win.

There will come a time when you can not only tell the proud story of the ANZACS to your children’s children; you can also tell them of your own Gallipolis and how you too persevered and won with an armoury of faith and seeking always tomorrow as one people.

Keep the faith and always stand tall   George Mansford March2020

Reflections from the Fallen

In this foreign land, our spirits watch as you pass by

A peaceful forest where we now lie

Bright coloured birds sweetly sing and gone forever is misery and pain

Soft damp green grass has replaced sandbags, slurping mud and drenching rain

Your laughter comforts us, for we are weary of grief and tears

You are drunk with vibrant youth, which we only sipped in angry years

Absent are screaming shells and whispering fluttering flares by day and night

No more the fear stirred when roused from restless sleep with dawn’s light

Faded are the ugly scars from hate, constant doubt and broken dreams

While in great national halls of pride, our names etched on walls are to be seen

Deeds of sharing, caring, seeking cheer, and so often risking all for each other

In the furnace of war where we were forged to be sisters and brothers

When you return to our beloved land

Mid concrete towers where once bark huts did stand

Guard well the torch you hold, glowing with its precious way of life

Fueled with yesterday dreams, blood, sweat, tears and terrible strife

We are you, and you are us, now and forever after

In a land down under, where abound free spirit, many smiles and laughter

George Mansford©February 2020