Kandanga man recalls his WWII childhood
LETTER to the Editor
ANZAC Day came and went. What were your thoughts? Here's mine.
Depends on how old you are and what you remember. My age will become obvious, if you read on.
Two wars began at about the same time. WW2 and my school career. Just got to know my father a bit when he went to war, I still don't know why. Maybe because he was unemployed, maybe because he recently married. The third was? It wasn't a "shotgun" wedding (bit late for that) but a right cross from my mother's father (seven stitches above the left eye) may have helped him make up his mind. Saw him occasionally in the next four or five years. Too often.
At school (NSW) we put tape on the windows so glass would not fly around when the bombs hit. At home we dug air raid shelters.
We lived near the railway station, lots of trains - northwards with Australian soldiers, trucks, guns, tanks - stuff like that. South with Japanese prisoners of war and American servicemen.
A few of us made money from trains on various ways - staged boxing matches, doing messages to buy stuff from distant shops.
I took money from a few Yankees by offering to bring my two sisters down to meet them. I did and Carol was four and Judith was 2½. And the money stayed in my pocket, as the train pulled away. And most of the Yanks laughed.
When I could read, the headlines were always positive. Germany was advancing towards England, Japan was threatening Australia, but we were winning! Vera Lynn! Remember her?
Then there was rationing. Tea, sugar, meat, even clothing. Coupons were issued but had to accompany cash. Forget petrol. Some cars and trucks had a weird contraption; gas producers? Didn't know much about them. We didn't have a car, most people didn't. We also didn't have much cash, my mother made all our clothes.
When the war ended, there was dancing in the streets; not a lot of drinking because beer was short, I think. Servicemen began arriving home. One of my uncles brought home air force uniforms and gave them to my mother. Had new shorts for the first time.
I lost my father and mother in the next couple of years. Mum died of some mysterious illness and Dad disappeared.
But getting back to Anzac Day.
I believe it's impossible to realise anything about war unless you were there. And even then different people had different experiences. One of my uncles (Mum's brother) was a prisoner of war in Germany for most of the war. My father was in the Middle East and New Guinea. My uncle in the RAAF fell out of a DC3 plane. Luckily, it was parked on the airstrip at Port Moresby at the time.
We read about atrocities by the Germans and Japanese. What about our blokes?
There's a big gap between WW2 and now - plenty of wars. Why?
So on Anzac Day I learn new things, hear new opinions, but mainly I feel thankful that I avoided active service in my short military career and hope that my offspring have the same luck.
About war - no idea. Anzac Day? An Australian great tradition. Keep it up.