Over the last fews years when I have posted about Anzac Day, I have talked about a few different topics, but today I wanted to talk mainly about reading fiction set against a background of war, but initially about my grandparent's experiences whilst they are still fresh in my mind.
If you recall, earlier this month I had to do a mercy dash across to Perth because my grandmother was very ill. It gave my sister and I a chance to talk to my grandfather a little. Whilst he now does have a tendency to tell the same story over and over and over again, we were able to inject a new story into the mix about how it was that he didn't have to go to war.
He talked of all the young men in the district being taken to a hall, and basically separated into groups. Those who would go and those who would stay. Because he was a shearer, they said to him that he was man-powered, which meant that he had to stay.He was given an area that he had to shear the sheep in, and there was something like 20,000 sheep in that area. Even the best shearers (using the equipment they had then) could only do 200 a day so the task was impossible, but even so he was glad to have to do that rather than go off to war. When war broke out against Japan he was in the middle of building a house and basically all building had to cease. Instead he had to do a lot of manual labour at the local airbase. (Over the course of his life he did an incredible amount of physical jobs. I was actually in awe as he talked about some of them this time.) They were constantly fearful that there would be a Japanese attack on the air base which was very close to where they lived. He had brothers and friends who went, and cousins who were lost at Gallipoli so in his generation he knew plenty of people who were lost to war.
My grandmother was in hospital at the Royal Perth Hospital, and she talked about being required to spend a night up on top of the newly built hospital (which was not in use yet) on the look-out for what she called yack-yack fires - spotting for a Japanese attack on Perth that thankfully never eventuated.
Anyway, once again I am writing a post and digressing from my main topic. Not the first time, and certainly not the last.
view the trailer on Youtube. (I would embed it, but the promo trailer was actually a little bit racy which surprised me).
I then went on to devour everything I could read from Barber. His other books were:
- A Farewell to France (1983) (1930s France through WWII)
- A Woman of Cairo (1984) (Egypt during their battles for independence through to WWII)
- The Other Side of Paradise (1986) (Pacific before and during WWII)
- The Weeping and the Laughter (1988) (Russian emigres in Paris through 1920s to WWII)
- The Daughters of the Prince (1990) (Italy just before and during WWII)
One of the reasons I like reading these kinds of books so much is finding out things that I just didn't know about. For example, a few years ago I read Black Diamonds by Kim Kelly, where she talked about the role that some of our miners played during WWI. These mens were taken from the mines, and sent to the Western Front, where they then tunneled under the ground until they were close to enemy positions and then set up explosives in order to destroy those enemy positions. It was dirty, and incredibly dangerous, and the men who performed these tasks were incredibly brave.
Since reading this book, I have seen the work of the miners mentioned in news reports, and in documentaries. This year, there is a new movie out which looks back at the jobs that these men did.
There are so many other books that I could focus on that I have read over the years, and I know that there are so many more to come. Click here to see just some of the books I have reviewed over the years that were set in WWII (in particular).
Reading books set against the background of war is just one more way that we can remember them.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
Lest we forget.