Letter to the editor
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.