Our hidden heroes today
As a youngster, Annie Todhunter was taken by her mother to doctors in Britain and Switzerland in a vain search for a fix for her hip defect.
As a Red Cross volunteer in World War I, Todhunter used the friends she’d made and languages she’d learned to single-handedly organise the Missing Soldiers’ Enquiry Bureau, organising searchers to scour the hospitals and cemeteries of England and France for missing men.
Talking to younger Todhunter generations this week, they are surprised and delighted to learn of the contribution made by this woman who, to the family, was simply a maiden aunt whose deafness in later years meant she mostly kept to herself.
Ella and William Price sheltered their son and his friend– both on the run from compulsory war service – in the ceiling cavity of their home in Victoria St, Christchurch. The Prices’ willingness to face a sixmonth prison sentence speaks to their certainty about the principles that motivated the two military deserters.
Takaka brothers Charlie, Ted and Leslie Newlove died within eight days of each other on the Western Front, leaving no children to remember them – just their ageing mother to grieve her lost sons.
These are some of our war heroes. And they were forgotten in their own lifetimes.
Talking to families about their lost loved ones, that is one of the more poignant discoveries.
So now, 100 years on from the end of World War I, who are our forgotten heroes today? Those who are quietly, humbly, risking themselves for others?
They may be vigorous young women and men, serving brave causes around the world. They may be keyboard warriors fighting unpopular causes at home. They may be deaf maiden aunts, quietly putting their reputations and livelihoods on the line and seeking no acclaim.
The memories of the heroes of World War I will fade further into the mists of the past. But a century on, Armistice Day is a chance for us to think about those hidden heroes of today.