Anzac Day 2015

On 25th April it will be 100 years since Australian and New Zealand soldiers charged the beaches in Gallipoli, Turkey, in an attempt to beat the Turks and give the Allies a chance to take Constantinople.  They were mown down, slaughtered.  The battles continued for months until December 1915 when they withdrew, defeated.  Out of a population of less than 5 million, Australia lost 8,000 young males at Gallipoli.

The following year, 1916, my grandfather, Ernest Bruce, joined the army after stowing away on a ship of volunteers headed for Egypt.  In July at Pozières, France, on the Western Front, he was trapped under concrete in an explosion, and then gassed.  But he survived.  He was one of the 40,000 Australians killed or wounded in 1916 on the Western Front (see AWM).  That’s a huge part of a population of 5 million.

When he returned to Australia, he was too ill to work for more than a few days a week, yet it took the government years to offer him a pension.

His oldest son was my father, Ronald Bruce, who hadn’t learnt a thing about the futility of volunteering to fight in a war.  In 1941 he joined the army, was sent to Egypt, and months later was sent home with shell shock.  He couldn’t hold down a job, and at 25 was offered a pension.

This Anzac Day, I honour my father and grandfather for volunteering to participate in Australia’s defence.

Ernest and Florence Bruce
Ron Bruce, before leaving for the Middle East, 1941
Ron Bruce, Heliopolis War Cemetery, Cairo, 1941

At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra there is a wall called the Roll of Honour.  It’s covered in the names of Australians who have died in war.  My grandfather and father are not on the wall because they returned alive;  but my grandfather’s three cousins, the Shaw brothers, and my grandmother’s two cousins, the Burley brothers, did not.  They are all buried on the Somme in France, and their names are here on the wall.  I put poppies beside their names.

Since I learnt that they were all killed while my grandfather returned, I haven’t looked at life the same way.

George Ronald Shaw, Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial
D’arcy R. N. Shaw and Frank A. P. Shaw, Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial


366 unusual things: days 114-118

23rd Apr – Offered two guests a cup of tea and both of them asked for a cup of hot water.

24th Apr – Tonight I was reading another blogger’s long, long post written in white print on a black background.  My husband came to my desk and when I looked up at his face I saw it veiled in white print for several seconds.

25th Apr – At the Anzac Day Services in Canberra (the first one at 5.30 am (4 deg C, brrrrrrrr), there were 40,000 people.  That’s 5,000 more than last year.  The further we get from the First World War, the more patriotic we are becoming.

26th Apr – A man down the road has a pet black sheep.  Farmers didn’t want her because she’s the black sheep of white-woolled parents.

27th Apr – Sat beside a full-length stained-glass window, the sun beating through from the other side.  Large pieces of red glass reflected red patches onto my red bag.

Anzac Day

In Australia, 25th April is Anzac Day.  Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  On this day, in both those countries, we remember all those who have fought to defend their people and to retain the freedom and peace we love, through all the wars we have been involved in and those we are currently fighting in.

I’ve been submitting photos to this blog from my father’s war album, from his time in North Africa in 1941 and 1942.  He wrote a few poems during that time, including one about the Anzacs.  It’s several verses long but here I’ll give you the first and last pages.  There are some spelling errors and other slips in his handwriting;  my transcription following the images will correct them.

Ron Bruce, “Anzacs Forever”, 1942, first verses, © Patricia Worth, 2012


Ron Bruce, “Anzacs Forever”, 1942, last verses, © Patricia Worth, 2012

Anzacs Forever

This camp’s getting stale,
You could hear the boys say,
Wish they’d make up their minds
And bung us away.
They wonder why we won’t stay in,
Why we try to dodge the parades,
You could see them taking the old French leave,
Not one, but bloody brigades.

Then came one bright Sunday,
One chocked full of surprise.
“Move out tomorrow,” the Captain said,
Then did the gleam come to their eyes.
So, as you strolled past all the tents,
You could hear them chat
Of women, the race horses,
This, the other, and that.


For those gallant sons are Aussies
And they’ve ne’er been known to flinch,
It’s just the stuff they’re made of,
They’re soldiers, every inch.
They’ll fight for King and Country,
Protect the friends they know,
They’ll even fight for the weaklings
That are afraid to go.

Let’s hope and pray
It won’t be long
Before they are returned,
To carry on, just like before,
With the freedom they have earned.
They’ll go back to their jobs again,
Some may prefer the track,
But they’ve upheld the name of
The great and glorious A.N.Z.A.C.

R.E. Bruce
© Patricia Worth, 2012