Although Anzac Day has passed for another year, my thoughts, as always, go to my father during this time, along with my two uncles and my father›in›law.
My father served in the 2nd NZ Division, 26th Battalion leaving Dunedin in June, 1943, and leaving behind a young baby and a small boy (my brother and sister). He wasn’t to return until February, 1946. Dad served in Italy and was involved in the Monte Cassino battle.
As was the case with a lot of returned men, not much was spoken about the war when they returned. It was after his retirement in 1969 that dad started to talk more about his experiences overseas. He had kept meticulous diaries which he eventually turned into a book called Army Days. My father wrote that his story was not one of adventure and high drama but rather of the transition from civilian to soldier, of new sights and sounds, of mingling with different nationalities, of his modest contribution to the conflict and of returning home again to civilian life.
Reading my father’s diaries and book has helped me understand the war and the sacrifices the men and women made for their country. As our servicemen grow older, it is important the work of the RSA is continued through their children and grandchildren. It is also important young people read about the history of the wars past, so they can understand why we commemorate Anzac Day, and to respect the sacrifices made by thousands of New Zealanders in the various wars they served in, alongside the many peace› keeping missions.
A quote from my father’s book:
‘‘Let no›one think that the war was a great and exciting adventure. It was tragic and ugly. It brought misery and suffering to countless numbers of human beings and resulted in a colossal waste of human lives and materials.
‘‘Having looked into the eyes of starving children, experienced the devastation and destruction of towns and villages and seen the poor remains of friends or foe fallen in battle, I am convinced of the stupidity and futility of war and fervently hope, perhaps in vain, that tensions brought about by religion, race, politics and oppression can be solved by peaceful negotiation before erupting into armed conflict.’’
My father would be horrified by the war raging in Ukraine.
› Let no›one think that the war was a great and exciting adventure. It was tragic and ugly. It brought misery and suffering to countless numbers of human beings and resulted in a colossal waste of human lives and materials. › — Army Days