Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a Canadian soldier, doctor and poet who wrote the beautiful poem 'In Flanders Fields' in war torn France sometime in 1915. It speaks to us about the waste of life that took place on all sides in what then was believed to be war to end all wars. Those optimists were horribly mistaken as it turns out because only twenty one years later the world was once again embroiled in war. You can hear a touching reading of McCrae's poem here. It brought me to tears.
When World War One (then known as the Great War) began men from all over the then British Empire volunteered to fight (and with them came women as nurses). Australia sent a total of 416,809 men from a total population of less than five million people. More than 60,000 of them died according to the Australian War Memorial and inevitably others were left with injuries that affected them for the rest of their lives. The effect that this loss of life and injury of such a high proportion of the young men of a small nation is hard to comprehend.
In the war's aftermath there were few Australian families that had not been touched by the loss or injury of loved ones including my own family. My great uncle, Captain Horace Chamberlain King MC, was one of the many killed in this war. That he was only twenty two when he died makes it even more poignant as does the fact that only twenty one years later the world was engaged in yet another horrific worldwide conflict. Peace had not lasted long and before the end of that war my family had lost yet more members, two of my uncles who died within a few months of each other in 1944. Anzac Day commemorates them all and so it should.
We will remember them.