Monday, 4 August 2014

One hundred years ago

today Australians woke to find themselves at war.
The Prime Minister of the day was Joseph Cook. (He was succeeded by Andrew Fisher on September 17th.) King George V was on the throne. The world was a very different place.
My paternal grandmother's brothers defied their father and went off to serve. He cut them out of his will. Their siblings reinstated them.
My paternal grandfather offered to go but was turned down because all his male siblings were already in the navy and two of his sisters were nursing the wounded. The youngest children, another boy and a girl, were too young to go and it was felt that my grandfather had war work to do here - besides being a tailor. We have never discovered exactly what that was but it apparently also involved the navy. Perhaps he was busy making uniforms? We are never likely to find out. Many records were destroyed and much went on that people did not know about.
We do know his mother, by then a widow, somehow managed to feed and comfort a seemingly endless stream of sailors on leave.  
On my mother's paternal side one of her uncles was in London at the time. He joined the army there and survived but never came back to Australia. Her father did not go to war and nor did any of the other siblings. Their father had served in the Boer war and their mother was apparently determined that the rebellious child in London would be the only one to serve. 
And my maternal grandmother had just one brother. We believe he went to war but my grandmother had no contact with him after their childhood. She did not know where he was or what he was doing. We still don't know.
I wonder about all this now. At the time it must have consumed the waking lives of everyone involved. It would have been a time of constant worry - would that knock on the door be the telegraph boy with the black-edged telegram? Would someone come home so badly wounded that they could never work again?
What must have it been like to have not just one son away but, as my paternal great grandmothers did, six? I can't comprehend that.  
Courage comes in many forms.

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