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Peter Adamis – Abalinx 11 November 2015
The time came to make the annual walk across the road the Watsonia RSL to pay tribute in my own small way to those who have since passed on in history but as always be remembered. As a young lad growing up during the early Fifties amongst the suburbs of Prahran and St Kilda areas; attending the local Primary school paying homage to those who had fought and died in wars we knew not. A copy of the article may be downloaded by clicking on: REFLECTIONS OF THE 11TH DAY
I can still vividly remember the Headmaster lining us all up in our respective classes and facing the flagpole which was situated at the back of the school building next to the school yard. The National Anthem “God Save the Queen” being sung by all followed by a small speech by the Head master, who advised us of the sacrifices of the Australian Defence Force men and women who had fallen in battle, the evils of war. We all stood to attention, disciplined at such an early age trying to comprehend what it was all about but at the same time realising that this day something important and we had to take notice.
In those days, respect for the fallen was visibly seen and all traffic stopped throughout Melbourne at the 11th hour. Traffic Police throughout Melbourne would use their whistles to stop the traffic and ensure that no vehicles were moving and all ensure a silent tribute being observed. In the streets, people would stop as if a siren had gone off alerting people that I was time to observe that silent tribute. If one was near a government building that was flying the Australian Flag, many men would salute while women simply looked up silently at with pride on their faces.
As youngsters all of this was new to my brother Philip and I and it baffled us why people stopped in the street at a particular hour. Phillip and I had migrated along with our parents when we were aged three and four years old and the world was our oyster in a land we knew not. However as we grew up and embraced Australian values we began to fully understood the significance of that moment. I wanted to be part of that society that demonstrated respect for those who had fought, fallen and died for freedoms we enjoy this day. Suffice to say some 58 years later, I am paying a silent tribute in my own way.
At the time of writing this tiny tribute, I am sitting in the back room of our home located across the road from the Watsonia RSL. The room has wide windows enabling the room to be illuminated by the morning sun and enjoying the many trees and flora surrounding the room.
Each tree and bush has a name of a friend or relative and it is a constant reminder that life continues on despite we leaving our earthly existence and taking another journey which we know not. I looked at the laptop clock and noticed that the time was 10.30 am. Taking note how long it would take me to change into something more respectable as I was in tracksuit pants, I said to myself that I had plenty of time as the RSL is only 30 seconds walk across the road and the car park.
I dragged myself upstairs, found a pair of trousers, put them on along with my top and footwear and went through the process of going through the myriad of doors before I would find myself in front of the house. I looked back at the house and said that I am going to have to knock the bloody house down as it has served its purpose, with the four boys grown up and the my lovely wife and I moved into something less spacious. Still it would be with regret as we had many wonderful memories of the home and gardens. The boys and I had worked our butts off in making it look like a home that was functional and at the same time hospital. It was a very old home that should have been knocked down many years ago, but you know how it once you get attached to something.
My mind returned to what lay ahead and I sauntered across the one way road and slowly walked the last forty paces to a position where I could view the catafalque party, distinguished guests, the throng of people from Watsonia and surrounding areas. The normal run of the mill mob was there, the President o the RSL who was a Vietnam veteran and ex Policeman, The RSL Committee, my neighbour Margaret (bless her soul) who is an integral part of the RSL and in my mind the soul of those living around the RSL. The catafalque party were all young men, from various Corps while on the other hand the catafalque commander was a Corporal, who had a chest full of medals and arms covered in tattoos.
Catafalque Party arrives
I breathed a sigh of relief that I had arrived in time for the tribute and to pay my respect to men and women of an era whose life histories now form part of the Australian way of life and culture. The legacies that they left behind were not lost on succeeding generations or to the many like myself who had were not born of this land but had made Australia home. War is war and I am so fortunate that in my thirty years service I was very fortunate to have seen peace time service. When I have ‘reflections of the 11th hour’ it is not only about the fallen and those whose lives were extinguished, it’s also about the uselessness of war and the misery it causes and I am sure that those who helped raise funds to build the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne wanted to leave behind a monument to reflect their struggle against the evils of tyranny.
For this little black sheep of the family, the only service considered “Whilst on War Service” according to my records is my time in Malaya/Singapore and my two stints at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia where the communist
‘Ching Pen” was still active in parts. It is of interest that we who serviced at Butterworth are still to be recognised accordingly, while other peace keeping forces have been acknowledged accordingly. Mind you I am not the only one to feel somewhat chagrined and short changed, but what can one do but take it on the chin and just get on with life. Maybe someday in the future some bright spark will realise the error of the ways and review the reasons for our three month deployment.
Lowering of the Australian flag
Back at the RSL, the bugler played the last post; all went quiet for a moment only to be disturbed by a vehicle silently making its way through the car park. Some looked at it in disgust, others looked away and yet some still just stared at the driver. Whatever the case may have been I would have hated to be in the driver’s seat of that vehicle driving through the car park seeking a parking spot.
With the vehicle gone, my mind drifted back to the bugler and the sweet tones that came out reminding me of another musical instrument that always brought a lump to my throat that of the bag pipes. Most people believe that the bagpipes are a Scottish invention, but the truth of the matter is that it was a Greek invention. Bagpipes were used by the ancient Spartans when marching off to war and if one is curious enough to conduct research they will find carvings on walls of .ancient temples or city polis ruins.
I thought of the men and women of WW1 which in effect was the world’s first modern war using new technologies that changed the face of the world forever. Dynasties and kingdoms fell, new nations formed; society as it was known then was transformed, followed by a horrific influenza epidemic that wiped out just as many if not more that WW1 itself. Those who survived were never to be the same and every sought to find solace in whatever time they had left. Shell shocked, gassed, broken mentally and physically, these men somehow survived the horrors of war with the help of family, relatives and friends support, while others succumbed to the ravages and after effects of their war experience.
I had come to realise early in my Army career why each town that I had travelled through had a small marble digger, memorial granite, column, archway, avenues and streets in memory of those who never returned or died since their return. The emotion experienced by that generation cannot be given any value as there are no known scales to measure the pain and sorrow felt by all.
The bugler playing the last post
As the final sound left the edge of the bugle, I thought of those who had served in WW2, Korea, Borneo, Malaysia, and the Indonesian Confrontation who were given and provided with the necessary support upon their return from operational duties.
Of those men and women veterans who were deployed to Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Singapore, Butterworth and other peace keeping operations and hoped that experiences were acknowledged appropriately. Unlike those who returned from Vietnam who were treated as second class citizens in their own country. These Vietnam veterans who received such a hostile reception by a people who should have known better left a negative effect on them. One hopes that this type of appalling behaviour is never repeated again to our young veterans.
I turned and left the throng of people and made my way back across the road. I knew that I could not stay long as I was in danger due to my low immune system (neutropenic) as a result of chemotherapy for a form of lymphoma. What does one do under such circumstances, stay at home and wilt like a flower that is dehydrating for lack of nutrition and water and/or does one make a decision and live life as one believes it should be lived. I had made my decision that for one small moment, I could still pay my tribute to the men and women who have since gone onto another world without causing too much damage to my system. I believe that it is a small price to pay when others have paid the ultimate one and in any case we were not meant to live forever.
As always, I apologise to the purists for the grammar and punctuation.
Peter Adamis is a Journalist/Social Media Commentator and writer. He is a retired Australian military serviceman and an Industry organisational & Occupational (OHS) & Training Consultant whose interests are within the parameters of domestic and international political spectrum. He is an avid blogger and contributes to domestic and international community news media outlets as well as to local and Ethnic News. He holds a Bachelor of Adult Learning & Development (Monash), Grad Dip Occupational Health & Safety, (Monash), Dip. Training & Assessment, Dip Public Administration, and Dip Frontline Management. Contact via Email: [email protected] or via Mobile: 0409965538