Tonight at 7.52 when it was 6 degrees Celsius and blowing an icy gale, I took this photo of D’arcey Richard Nottingham Shaw’s name projected onto the Australian War Memorial. It was hard to hold my camera still in the wind, but the photo is not too bad. D’arcey was killed in action on The Somme in France in 1917, yet he has no grave; his remains were never found. On his Roll of Honour card, digitally available on the A.W.M. website, it is noted that D’arcey Shaw’s wounds were the result of being buried twice from bombs bursting near him in Pozières. How ironic that they should write that, when in the end he was buried nowhere.
Because he died defending Australia, his name was written in light for 30 seconds tonight, perhaps for my benefit alone. As far as I know, none of his other family members live in Canberra. Since I’m just ten minutes away, it’s easy to whip down to the Memorial and see the names when they come up between sunset and sunrise.
D’arcey was my grandfather’s cousin. I want to remember him and his two brothers who also died in France, in the war to end all wars, because my grandfather was there too, but he didn’t die.
Nineteen-year-old D’arcey was the second son in his family to be killed in France. The first one was George, and there would be a third, Frank Percy Shaw, whose name was projected onto the War Memorial on 21st June, a night that was cool but not freezing like tonight. I wrote about him here.
As I was leaving around the back of the Memorial I saw four kangaroos standing guard in the dark. They’re delightful at a distance and are happy to be photographed from a car window, but if I’d got out and approached them they would have either hopped away or hopped towards me and treated me as an enemy.
The next date that I will have a relative’s name up for viewing is in early spring. I’m happy knowing it won’t be another chilling evening.
Where land meets water in a large city, we build homes and offices for the short walk to the beach and the long view of the open sea. It’s a place to turn our backs on all that disturbs us in society.
For Ailsa’s Land Meets Water photo challenge, here’s a photo of Stanley Bay, Alexandria, Egypt in about 1941. The corniche, the road running round the coastline, was constructed in 1935. The descending levels of concrete bathing cabins added on the shoreline form an amphitheatre that looks onto the Mediterranean. Here in 1941 people are bathing in the sun and sea, and, by all appearances, are unafraid. Yet in May, June and December of that year there had been fierce enemy air and sea attacks on Alexandria with hundreds of people killed and injured. In this scene there are bathers on the sand, in the water and on the rocks, as though all is well.
Today Alexandria is not facing the same threats, but the population has multiplied. Modern photos show the corniche lined with high-rise apartment blocks, not as picturesque as those in the 1940s, and with not nearly as much space to roam between buildings. And town planners seem to have had second thoughts about the bathing boxes, which have disappeared. Only the sea remains the same.
Yesterday, a French friend asked me to define the word ‘yoke’. She looked in her bilingual dictionary and came up with ‘constraint’. But it’s more than that, I think, and I tried to explain that it can be a mark of servitude. Or slavery. Or it can be a metaphor for a burden, anything that keeps you coupled to a problem.
Today I passed this yoke, and took the photo to show her.
A yoke is a binding thing. A piece of wood fastened to the necks of two animals, then attached to a plough, forces them to work obediently and stops them escaping. When the yoke is removed, and especially once it’s nailed to the top of a post, the animals are free to roam and go where they please. Independence.