Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Demythologising "Diggers"

By Tracy

Further to John’s comments on Anzac Day... I’ve been reading a memoir by the late A. D. Hope (b. 1907), in which he recounts the following story:

“One day I was sitting on a bench in Machattie Park in Bathurst when a man sat down beside me and got into conversation mainly about the war in the desert. His unit was moving north towards Damascus in the final stages of the campaign, he said, and had camped in the sand not far from a small village where there was water. In the morning it was found that a very popular officer had been robbed in the night and was lying in his tent with his throat cut. Sentries had been posted but had not noticed the intruder whose trail in the sand clearly led from the tent and back towards the village. ‘When the body was brought out,’ he said, ‘we all stopped work. Nobody said a word but we all armed ourselves and went in a body to the village, surrounded it, set fire to the houses and shot everybody who came out of the flames.’ ‘Women and children too?’ I asked. He nodded. ‘Weren’t you punished for it?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘That was the kind of war it was. Anyway a few days later we joined the main army and not long after we were in Damascus.’ ‘I can hardly believe that Australian soldiers would do such a thing,’ I said. ‘Well it happened,’ he said...”

The sad thing is that people think any side, on any war, is any different. That’s what war is.

(Quote is taken from A. D. Hope, Chance Encounters, Melbourne University Press, 1992, pp. 38-39.


Dr Michelle Frantom (aka Dr Mad Fish of Mad Fish Designs) said...

Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. It's just a filthy game with no winners.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit to similar feelings each year when our primary and infants students are told to stand in silence and reflect on the brutality of war, but be proud at the same time that their grandfathers killed and died in their name.

Sure, we need to remember the fallen who fought for our nation, but certain problematic aspects really leave a bitter taste.