Notes from the f ield

Australian Geographic - - From The Editor-in-chief -

“AS LONG AS I can re­mem­ber, I’ve known that my mother’s un­cle Ger­ard (‘Ger’ as he was known) had been a pris­oner in Ger­many dur­ing World War I,” says his­to­rian and long-time AG con­trib­u­tor Alas­dair McGre­gor, who wrote our Cen­te­nary of Armistice fea­ture in this is­sue. “Although he lived into his 80s, I never man­aged to meet Ger.

But re­search­ing After­math of

War (page 88) prompted me to delve into his mil­i­tary record, and to my amaze­ment, I dis­cov­ered he was at the Bat­tle of Fromelles, an im­por­tant el­e­ment in my story.

“His war his­tory then sent me in search of still more rel­a­tives of whom I had lit­tle or no knowl­edge.” What be­gan as a rou­tine AG as­sign­ment soon turned up an ex­ten­sive fam­ily record of mil­i­tary ser­vice as Alas­dair dis­cov­ered the de­tailed war records of about a dozen not-too-dis­tant rel­a­tives. Per­haps most poignant was the story of David McGre­gor, a cousin of Alas­dair’s grand­fa­ther Alexan­der. “Hav­ing en­listed in

July 1916, he ar­rived in Eng­land that De­cem­ber. But within a month David McGre­gor was de­nied a hero’s death at the Front, and in­stead suc­cumbed to pneu­mo­nia in an English hospi­tal.

“Ser­vice, gal­lantry, mis­ery, dis­fig­ure­ment, dis­ease and death – my fam­ily’s sto­ries are typ­i­cal of so many; yet through these re­cent dis­cov­er­ies, each one is ren­dered per­sonal, and ev­ery one be­comes im­por­tant to me.”

Per­sonal con­nec­tion is also at the heart of the Royal Fly­ing

Doc­tor Ser­vice, which AG writer Han­nah James dis­cov­ered when she vis­ited two bases – in Broome

and Bro­ken Hill – for this is­sue (page 54). “This was a dream as­sign­ment: spend­ing time with the men and women of the Fly­ing Doc­tors, and vis­it­ing the re­mote com­mu­ni­ties they work with,” Han­nah says. “It was an hon­our to be given per­mis­sion by the el­ders of Yaka­narra, WA, to tag along with the Fly­ing Doc­tors on their weekly GP clinic visit. The spec­tac­u­lar plane trip out there from Broome (in a Cessna) un­der­scored how re­mote Yaka­narra is, and once we ar­rived, the lo­cals were happy to chat about their town and love of the Fly­ing Doc­tors.

“This ado­ra­tion was the com­mon thread ev­ery­where we went. In NSW, where drought was ever-present, the lo­cals were grate­ful not only for the ev­ery­day med­i­cal care the RFDS pro­vides, but also for the car­ing, prac­ti­cal men­tal health­care that means more peo­ple are able to stay on the coun­try they love.”

Far from the out­back’s red dust but just as quintessen­tially Aus­tralian is

Ox­ley Wild Rivers Na­tional Park on the North­ern Table­lands of NSW. Long-time AG con­trib­u­tor Don Fuchs ex­plored its 63km-long Green Gully Track (page 108), which leads through vir­gin for­est into a deep ravine, where rock wal­la­bies roam the cliffs, and then out again via a chal­leng­ing climb that tests even sea­soned hik­ers’ stamina.

“There’s a mo­ment on any as­sign­ment that stays etched in your me­mory,” Don says. “On my four-day walk along the track it was a hot shower. What made it so mem­o­rable was that it took two days of walk­ing with a heavy back­pack, in­clud­ing my cam­era gear, to be able to en­joy it.

This shower was earned with sweat, sore mus­cles and hard work.”

The sim­ple open-air shower was at the back of Green Gully Hut, one of a hand­ful of lov­ingly ren­o­vated build­ings that once shel­tered pi­o­neer­ing stock­men. “Com­pared with their lives, my short foray into the wilder­ness was easy. The cat­tle­men didn’t have the lux­ury of a hot shower. But they had the creeks and rivers. Maybe for them a dip in cold moun­tain wa­ter was as much a lux­ury as the few short min­utes of hot wa­ter at the back of the hut was for me.” Fea­tures ed­i­tors: El­iz­a­beth Gi­nis, Karen McGhee, Jo Hart­mann, John Pick­rell Reg­u­lar columnists: Dr Karl Kruszel­nicki AM, John Pick­rell, Fred Wat­son AM, Kel Richards

More con­trib­u­tors: Chris Clar­son, Nick Cub­bin, James Dorey, Ricky French,

Don Fuchs, Justin Gil­li­gan, Doug Gimesy, David Han­cock, Joanna Hart­mann, Han­nah James, Alas­dair McGre­gor, Peter Meyer, Jes­sica Mud­ditt, Matthew New­ton, Joanne Pa­que­tte, Paul Pritchard, Ben Rev­ell, Dean Saf­fron, Josephine Sar­gent, Dy­lan Toh

Han­nah James took to the sky to re­port on the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice.

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