Great War changed Australia forever
THE year 2014 marked a century since the Great War began. The ensuing four years of commemoration have provided an occasion for much reflection and remembrance of the events that occurred at Gallipoli, on the Western Front, in the Middle East and other theatres of the 1914-1918 war.
The Great War irrevocably changed our state and our country. The shadow it cast and the wounds it inflicted remained for decades afterwards, from the limbless to the terse and withdrawn men with unseen wounds, to the photo of the lost son, brother or uncle on the mantelpiece.
Consider for a moment Charles Bean's observation that on the outbreak of the Second World War there were still 2000 patients in hospital and 50,000 outpatients from the Great War, which had ended just 21 years earlier.
The war draped a blanket of grief and pain across Australia for a generation, but there was also solemn pride in the achievements of the men of the Australian Imperial Force.
Never before or since has Australia played such a momentous and costly role in world affairs.
For a small country like Australia the loss of so many men was incalculable. They were volunteers and among the most public spirited of their generation.
As has been noted many times before, in those 60,000 war dead were perhaps future Prime Ministers, poets, writers, educators and scientists. What might they have contributed had they lived?
We can only guess by looking at the tremendous contribution of those who returned.
One such returned soldier, one of the first Indigenous soldiers to enlist, was Charles Tednee Blackman Graham.
He died at Mossman Hall Special Hospital, Charters Towers, from the effect of pneumonia on August 12, 1966 at the age of 65. He was single, had been unwell for four years and was buried in the open grassed section of Charters Towers Cemetery, never having received the recognition due as a returned serviceman.
After years of research by numerous people, his forgotten grave was found and RSL funding was obtained to place a headstone over it. A consecration ceremony attended by relatives and representatives of the military was held in 2017. Of interest to Mackay people, Keith Payne VC attended the dedication.
Chris Bull, Airlie Beach
LETTER OF THE WEEK