Great War changed Aus­tralia for­ever

Daily Mercury - - YOUR SAY -

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

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