ANZAC Day has always been so full of memories for me that it’s hard to sort out the emotions it stirs up. There’s the loss of my cousins in 1988, the memories of sombre visits to Gallipolli (though perhaps the last one wasn’t as sombre as one might like) and years of pulling catafalque party duty at the dawn services when I was a cadet.
Today we went up the Coast to attend the ANZAC Day ceremony with my grandfather at his local RSL. I’m not quite sure why I felt compelled to go and do that. Though I think it is probably got a lot to do with the fact that it’s the only thing I’ve ever had in common with him growing up…. he’s a WWII veteran and I was always involved in the ANZAC parades as a kid.
Anyway one of my most vivid memories of talking about cadets with my Poppa was when I was about 14 and he was showing me his medals. Poppa has five medals one of which is a Military Medal (I dont know much about it really, but was told by a friend many years later that it is the next one to a Victoria Cross medal). Well anyway at this time he showed me the medals and gave me the citation for the awarding of the medal which was a story that read something like this –
Poppa was working with the Americans in Papua New Guinea fighting against the Japanese forces there when he became very ill with malaria and he basically thought he was dying. One of the main jobs of the ANGAU troops was recon for the American forces that were deployed there apparently and on this particular occasion Poppa (who was SGT of his platoon) was on a recon exercise when they came upon a small hut in Japanese occupied territory. Poppa positioned his platoon around the hut to wait for his ‘GO’ but instead (because he thought he was dying of malaria) he burst into the hut by himself, shot two Japanese soldiers and then killed the remaining five with an axe before his platoon even made it to the door. It was one of those ‘everyone was cleaning their weapons’ situations or it would have been a very different story a non-existent Borys wouldn’t be able to tell today.
As a young girl I found this revelation quite hard to process… it just didn’t sit right with my view of my grandfather – he used to take us ten pin bowling, help us make wooden aeroplanes in his shed and make us ice-cream spiders for crying out loud and that just doesn’t sit right with the whole ‘killed several people with an axe thing’.
ANZAC Day is a bit of an emotional minefield for me… I can’t imagine what it’s like from his end.