April 25th is Anzac Day. It commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli to fight against Turkey in WW1. It is the day we remember Australians who have served and died in all wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations.
Mr Daisy's mother has written a beautiful speech about her father who served in Gallipoli. Joan will be sharing this story at a special Anzac Day commemoration ceremony. She has kindly let me publish her speech along with some of the photos her father took. I think it's important to remember the stories behind the people. and although this is about one man, it could be the story of one of many who fought in the war.
"Good morning, friends.
Some of you may be wondering why I am the person doing this address. My only claim to fame as far as war is concerned is that my father, Rupert Thomas ,was in the Australian army and landed at Gallipoli in 1915, 100 years ago. Because there are not many of us left who had a parent in World War I, I was asked to do the job. Because of him I was proud to say “Yes”.
As his daughter I am entitled to wear his medals,too.
Some of us may never have seen genuine WWI medals before - each one is given for a different part of WWI. The first – The 1914-1915 Star for service during those years. The second, (and as we all know we were part of Britain then), is the British War medal 1914 – 1920 for entry into a theatre of war and overseas service. The third is the Victory medal, again for overseas service.
When I was a child, Anzac Day was always special. Dad ,never to my knowledge, missed going to the Dawn service, and usually another service during the day – in his younger days he always went to the Shrine in Melbourne even though we lived in the country. It was his chance to meet with friends and comrades – those with whom he had shared things that the blokes in his everyday life could not possibly imagine. Dad marched with them and spent the day with them. As soon as I was old enough I was taken to the march to watch – but Mum and the kids left early and Dad came home later. When I was older, I marched with Girl Guides and participated in the ceremonies.
Let me tell you a bit about my father. He was Rupert Thomas, born in 1897 in St Kilda. He never knew his real parents, but was fostered by a loving family. He had two older sisters and an older brother in this family and did not seem to have missed out on much because of being a foster child. He referred to the mother as Aunt, and she was the one who signed the permission form for his enlistment into the army. The older brother, Jack, also went into the army, and sadly was killed during the war.
Rupert enlisted to go into the army – ready and willing to go to war – a few days after his 18th birthday. He was a fit young man and had no trouble being accepted. He went into training at Broadmeadows immediately and I suspect he had had some cadet experience because he went from Private to Lance Corporal within a few days. As Britain was at war, they were anxious to get as many men “over there” as quickly as possible, and there were thousands of young Aussie men who were patriotic enough to want to go. Soon they were on boats and crossing to Egypt for desert training. Dad talked of the trip as a big adventure – describing the rituals of crossing the equator and exploring Cairo as fun. This included climbing to the top of the pyramid at Giza! He told me about the extremely cold nights in the desert, and the hot,hot days. He remembered one night there was rain, and the next morning to the surprise of everyone, there was a carpet of green grass. By afternoon it had all died from the heat. He was at this stage ignorant of what was to come.
Dad was in the 22nd Battalion of the AIF. They landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, quite some time after what we now know as Anzac Day, 25th April. However, the landing was just as dramatic, and traumatic for these later arrivals as it was for the earlier ones. Some of the men from Dad's landing craft were killed on the beach almost before their feet touched dry sand. Thousands of young Australian, New Zealand, British, French and Indian members of their country's military forces were killed and injured. Even more of the Turkish army (the enemy) were also killed, although this is never mentioned very much. Life in the trenches was awful- it was either wet and muddy or hot and dry – water supplies were scarce, and washing was out of the question, vermin was not uncommon and all the men had lice – imagine the smell!! The dead had to be buried in horizontal graves in the sides of the trenches and the wounded had very basic care. Remember this was before there was much in the way of antibiotics and any wounds relied on the health of the soldier to heal. Dad told of the day that a truce was declared, and men from both sides left the trenches to retrieve the dead from “No Mans Land” so that they could have a decent burial.
They even shook hands with men they might have to shoot the next day. As we all know there was no victory for the Allied forces at Gallipoli, and they were to leave by December 1915.
After Gallipoli, Dad went to France and fought in the trenches there, too. He was given promotion to sergeant at some stage and also spent a time as an officer – which he decided he did not like, so he reverted to sergeant. He was wounded a couple of times. Once an enemy bullet pierced his steel helmet and lodged in his forehead – maybe I have inherited the 'thick skull' – I used to touch the spot and ask what had happened, but he didn't tell me until I was much older -”not for girls to hear those stories” Dad had some lighter experiences in France, too. Always a bit of a charmer, he soon learned some basic French – such as 'voulez vous promenade avec moi?' And 'Voulez vous me donner un baiser?' (Come for a walk and Give us a kiss) and the 'Boys' were known to greet people, saying, instead of Bon Soir Monsieur, - Bum Sore, Manure, and Olive Oil Manure for Au Revoir. One of my childhood lullabies was 'Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major'
Rupert's time at war ended at almost the end of the war when he was shot in France and taken to England with his shoulder shattered and lung penetrated. Apparently it was usual for the seriously wounded to be offered a favourite meal when they were arrived in England from France – Dad requested Tripe!! The nurses couldn't believe him. Copies of the messages to his Aunt showed how seriously ill he was – it was some time before he could be moved.
Rupert was brought back to Australia in 1919, and spent time at the military hospital in Caulfield before being discharged.
Of course all of this happened when Dad was not much older that our grandson, not much more than a boy, really. He returned to civilian life after recovering from his wounds. Although he had been a good sportsman before the war, he was less able afterwards. He was a keen supporter,though. His life was an interesting one. He met and married my mother and they had four children -I was the last – after all he was 42 by then. He was a very gentle man – with a wicked sense of fun. He enjoyed performing – how many of you have seen their father on stage in a dress?? I have!! Every year for years he was Father Christmas for one charity or another – he had the shape and colouring for that duty. He held a responsible job until his retirement . I could not say he ever dwelt on his awful war experiences – if he did he hid it well. He is remembered fondly by his children and grandchildren. He certainly lived a full life – even had a game of bowls on the day he died, aged 76.
My Dad was probably just the same as many of the ordinary blokes, who put their lives 'out there' so that we can have the life we have in the country we love. Today extraordinary young people – men and women – still devote themselves to keeping us all safe. This is the time we can show our appreciation of their service, and support their bravery.
And that's what Anzac day is about!
LEST WE FORGET!! "