George Welsh, my grand uncle, died in September 1918. As a 5’4″, 119 lb, bright complexion, blue-eyed 16 year old lad he forged (not a typo) his way into the AIF in December 1915. What romantic notions did George have of “Serving King and Country” after the first Anzac Day I wonder?
George was eventually discovered and transferred to the under-age unit until he was old enough to be blown up or shot. There was a third option: “severely gassed”, he was evacuated to England, to recover before being sent back to complete the job. He is laid to rest in France having died of “GSW”s – gun shot wounds a couple of days after receiving them. Facts are harsh.
George’s remains lay under a gravestone in a war cemetery. A 70 odd page pdf of George’s Army records including missives between the AIF and his mother is also floating around. His close family are passed. His few meagre personal effects are long lost.
I have seen men like George – wounds and all – from that war and others. The visions do not haunt me, but I do not forget them.
I have seen dusty, violent battles between settlers and aborigines. In the mountains near Omeo the energy of these battles roil still.
I am grateful the Vietnam insanity concluded before I was old enough.
I will not forget images from that time.
I will not forget the advice of my father during those times that is even more applicable today: “You cannot believe all you read, son. “
I have seen ‘Georges’ from the Napoleonic wars.
I have seen liberated slave families and soldiers alike from the American Civil war.
I will not forget that: once dead, there are no sides. There is the Divine.
I will not forget the gay men bashed to death, or the lesbian lovers bombed and suffocated during the blitz.
I will not forget non-participants and that ugly, ugly word “collateral”.
I will not forget the innocents – children, pets, wildlife.
Not bloody likely.
Readings lately, Buddhist in nature, hold an explanation. It is the myth of separateness brought about, of course, by ego. Use any of your senses: are you separate from anything they experience? If so where is the barrier that separates you from the experience?
What of love?
This too is difficult to forget once realised.