Today is ANZAC Day. It's the day we commemorate the disastrous landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.
My father was a born in 1914 at the beginning of The Great War and my mother would enter the world 4 years later, as the 'war to end all wars' was drawing to a close. My father's younger brother, whom the family called Fred, would be born 5 years after my father, on 21 May, 1919.
As we all know of course, The Great War did not turn out to be 'the war to end all wars' and, sadly, the folk of my parents' generation were to find this out all too soon. The Great War became known as World War I and my parents' war, as World War II
None of my father's children (6 daughters) got to meet Uncle Fred.
The 2/10th Battalion was the first South Australian battalion formed for the Second AIF. It formally came into being on 13 October 1939. Uncle Fred enlisted on 6 November, 1939 aged 20.
This picture is from the Australian War Memorial website and shows the 2/10th training at Ingleburn in NSW in 1940 before departure for England.
The Australian War Memorial website gives an account of the 2/10th's history stating that the battles it fought in Papua "were its most bitter and costly."
The website states that "the 2/10th arrived at Milne Bay on 12 August 1942 and on the night of 27 August was overwhelmed by Japanese marines in a confused battle. The battalion fared even worse in its next engagement – Buna. Between 23 December and 2 January 1943 the 2/10th lost 113 men killed and 205 were wounded in often ill-conceived attacks against Japanese bunkers around the old airstrip. The 2/10th’s final engagement in Papua was at Sanananda between 9 and 24 January 1943."
Uncle Fred was killed on 21 January 1943.
My mother has often told the story of Uncle Fred and his mate Jimmy enlisting and serving together. Apparently Jimmy died just before Fred, perhaps in the Buna battle. Family lore has it that after Jimmy died Fred was distraught. He felt that he didn't want to go on and began to engage in the risky behaviour, which resulted in his own death a few weeks later.
These pictures are also from the Australian War Memorial website. The one above was taken at Milne Bay, Gili Gili, Papua New Guinea in October, 1942. The one below shows Australian troops as they plough through mud and slush in the heart of New Guinea on their way out of a forward area for a well-earned spell.
I wish Uncle Fred could have hung on for a little longer. But ... imagine ... having fought the war for almost 4 years, you lose your best mate while fighting a ruthless enemy, in conditions unimaginable to most of us, and not knowing where or when it would all end ... well I think I'd want to give up too.
The 2/10th returned home on 12 March 1943, just 7 weeks after Uncle Fred died.
So Uncle Fred, we didn't get to know you, but judging by your brothers and sisters, I'm sure you were a lovely young man. You were certainly a very brave young man. There can be no denying that.
So little is known of your early life. What were your interests? What did you love to do as a boy, as a teenager, before the War took you away forever? We'll probably never know now.
I hope you and Jimmy have been resting in peace all these years, knowing that you fought ... and saved the greatest country on earth.
One thing is for sure ... age shall not weary you, nor the years condemn.