I just heard someone in the neighbourhood practising the Last Post to play at dawn for ANZAC Day tomorrow and it gave me goosebumps. As we bring to mind all those affected by war and I think especially of those men in my family who served in both world wars and Vietnam, I thought this year I’d share with you another perspective of how it was for three different women in my family during war…
Lorna, my Australian grandmother, volunteered during WWII for the Women’s National Emergency Legion (WNELs) based in Brisbane. This auxiliary provided first-aid, radio communications, mine-watching and transport driving and mechanics, particularly for the US troops’ Pacific base and among her duties Lorna would drive large transport trucks and buses with her service also taking her to Darwin.
Katherine, her grandmother, who everyone called, Aunty Kate, was born in Australia after her family emigrated from German Württemberg in 1854. Her son, Lemuel was 20 when he signed up to serve in WWI in the 26th Battalion from 1915 until 1919. She received a telegram in 1917 to say he’d been wounded and while he survived some of the worst fighting in Europe against German soldiers he was sent back for more. The family were loyal Australians but how it must have been to have relatives still in Germany on the other side of the war, possibly even fighting against Lemuel.
Maddalena, my great-grandmother, was stranded in Italy with her young son, Elia from 1939 until 1948 throughout WWII and the trying years after. Not able to have contact with her husband and elder son, both interned in Australia, (a particular injustice for Vitale who’d fought with the Allies during WWI), Maddalena persevered through nearby bombings, a visit from German soldiers who took their little food, killed their donkey and chickens and wrecked sown crops, and then, the years of scarcity that came after.
For all those who have been affected by and endured war in all its forms, thinking of you with much respect and compassion.