Let­ter to the ed­i­tor

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS -

On Novem­ber 11, Aus­tralia will com­mem­o­rate Re­mem­brance Day.

Re­mem­brance Day this year is very sig­nif­i­cant as it com­mem­o­rates the 100th an­niver­sary of the end­ing of the Great War, now known as World War I.

Aus­tralia, as a young na­tion, hav­ing only fed­er­ated 17 years be­fore, paid an ex­tremely high price.

Ca­su­al­ties on a per capita ba­sis were very high and al­most ev­ery Aus­tralian fam­ily was im­pacted in some way.

Many young men from the lo­cal Co­bram area en­listed.

A large num­ber of those, in­clud­ing my grand­fa­ther be­came mem­bers of the 37th Bat­tal­ion.

It drew troops from north­east­ern Vic­to­ria, Gipp­s­land and Mel­bourne and trained at Sey­mour.

My grand­fa­ther and his cousin and best friend, Christo­pher Sut­ton, joined from the Bearii area and were known as the ‘Bearii Boys’.

Oth­ers joined from sur­round­ing dis­tricts and are re­mem­bered on Nu­murkah’s mu­ral.

The 37th took part in a num­ber of ac­tions in­clud­ing Amiens, Bat­tle of Messines, first bat­tle of Pass­chen­dael, St Quentin Canal and oth­ers.

It was noted for a large num­ber of dec­o­ra­tions and awards. Its mem­bers in­cluded a Vic­to­ria Cross win­ner, two distin­guished ser­vice or­ders, 15 mil­i­tary crosses, eight distin­guished con­duct medals, 67 mil­i­tary medals, sev­eral men­tions in dis­patches and a cou­ple of for­eign awards.

Due to the high ca­su­alty rates, some units were dis­banded and amal­ga­mated with oth­ers. The 37th Bat­tal­ion was one of these and, in Septem­ber 1918, re­ceived or­ders to dis­band.

The 37th had an in­ter­est­ing his­tory. Its com­man­der had re­sisted at­tempts to amal­ga­mate and was dis­missed.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Story had ques­tioned his or­ders to all of his su­pe­ri­ors, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter.

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary act, the men of the bat­tal­ion mu­tinied. The or­der to dis­band was de­layed and the unit dis­banded in Oc­to­ber 1918. My grand­fa­ther and oth­ers were trans­ferred to the 38th Bat­tal­ion.

The troops con­tin­ued to pa­rade and turn out, with their non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cers and en­listed men. This was not an act of cow­ardice but one of ca­ma­raderie and mate­ship.

Af­ter the war, many thought it would be the war to end all wars. Its toll was hor­ren­dous and its ca­su­al­ties were on an un­prece­dented scale.

Aus­tralia owes those who fought an undy­ing debt of grat­i­tude.

Many Aus­tralians made a sac­ri­fice in­clud­ing the women who trav­elled to the front and tended to our sol­diers as nurses and car­ers.

They demon­strated enor­mous courage and wit­nessed many hor­rific in­juries and trau­mas.

Some of them came un­der fire, and they bat­tled prim­i­tive con­di­tions, work­ing closely with doc­tors from all back­grounds.

Re­mem­brance Day does not glo­rify war, but asks us to re­mem­ber and hon­our the sac­ri­fice and the cost. It com­pels us to re­flect on the cost and to re­mem­ber.

Peter Sut­ton

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