Thursday, August 4, 2011

ROSEMARY AND MEMORIES


Anzac Day, 25th April, was always a day of great significance in my family. 

Three of my father's brothers had gone to World War II and all  had returned, for which we were always grateful. My maternal grandfather  had served in WWI, as had many of my ancestors and, as I was to learn  when I began researching, many of my family, some whom I didn't know,  had also fought in various wars. I had a second cousin captured in  Singapore, who was to die there. So it was with great pride, that we  wore our sprig of rosemary, pinned to our Sunday best and marched in the annual parade with our heads held high.


I grew up in a small country seaside town in NSW, where the war monument took pride of place in the bottom corner of our school grounds, at the main intersection in town. It was suitably fenced off, and we were always taught to respect it. We were too young to understand what war really was, or where ANZAC Cove was...it was just over there... not in Australia. That meant not on the same page as Australia was, in our blue covered school Atlas, so it must have been a long way away. Papua New Guinea however was close by, so we more or less understood that it was at the top of Australia... no Google maps in the '50s. That's where Dad's three brothers had fought.

We went to the morning services only, as the dawn service was only for  the returned soldiers in the main then. We could never understand why they needed to have two services, after all we held a march before we  laid wreaths at the war memorial. It was with sombre faces that the chosen children would lay a wreath. Then it was three steps backwards,  bow your head and wait... for either your parents, or a member of the RSL (Returned Services League), to tap you gently on the shoulder and you would return to your place. I can still hear the haunting sounds of The  Last Post being played on the bugle, accompanied by quiet sobbing from  many gathered around, particularly one of the older women, who had lost  three sons in WWI. She held her head high, but the tears rolled freely  down her cheeks. Hers was always the last wreath to be laid. Each year,  she would place a wreath of hand made red crepe poppies, with three white poppies in the centre, one for each son. Then she would quietly  take the sprig of rosemary from her dress and lay it at the base of the  memorial on the side where her son's names were and walk home alone. She  had many friends, but kindly declined their offers of company and spent  this day alone. When she passed away, her grave was honoured with white handmade crepe paper poppies... and a sprig of rosemary. 

Crissouli (c)

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