Re­flect­ing on past and fu­ture

WE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT WITH THE END OF TH­ESE PAST FOUR YEARS OF AW­FUL CEN­TE­NAR­IES, WE CAN NOW MOVE FOR­WARD INTO A DIF­FER­ENT CEN­TURY . . .

Shepparton News - - OPINION -

To­mor­row marks a cen­tury since the guns fell silent over the trenches of the West­ern Front in France, end­ing four years of blood­shed across the world.

Coun­try towns and ur­ban cen­tres around the Goul­burn Val­ley will mark the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion with cer­e­monies and salutes in town squares, re­cre­ation re­serves and ceno­taphs.

As we re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fice of al­most 62 000 Aus­tralians who died fight­ing for our free­dom and in ser­vice of our na­tion, we must also re­mem­ber the sense of re­lief that fam­i­lies must have felt when the ter­ri­ble con­flict was over.

As soon as the news be­came known in No­vem­ber 1918, ci­ties and towns around Aus­tralia erupted into cel­e­bra­tions.

So to­mor­row will be a bit­ter­sweet day.

For those with loved ones who never re­turned, there will be sad­ness.

But for those who did re­turn to live out their lives in peace and free­dom, their fam­i­lies can cel­e­brate and be thank­ful.

Th­ese past four years have seen many World War I cen­te­nar­ies marked — the out­break of war in Au­gust 1914, Gal­lipoli in 1915, the bat­tles of the Somme and Fromelles in 1916, Beer­sheba in 1917 and Viller-Bre­ton­neux in 1918.

All th­ese and many more en­gage­ments now live for­ever in the proud an­nals of Aus­tralian mil­i­tary his­tory.

How­ever, th­ese bat­tle hon­ours must share their ex­is­tence with a dark and per­haps even longer shadow — the pain and grief of gen­er­a­tions.

Aus­tralia’s World War I losses are unimag­in­able to­day.

From a pop­u­la­tion of fewer than five mil­lion, 416 809 en­listed, of which more than 60 000 were killed and 156 000 wounded, gassed or taken pris­oner.

While the ar­mistice marked an end to the con­flict, it marked a be­gin­ning for many fam­i­lies and re­turned sol­diers of years of men­tal suf­fer­ing, the ef­fects of which are per­haps still be­ing felt to­day.

One hun­dred years seems a long time, but the truth is Aus­tralian fam­i­lies and loved ones never for­get.

This is proven each year by the num­ber of young peo­ple in­volved in the com­mem­o­ra­tions and salutes.

We can only hope that with the end of th­ese past four years of aw­ful cen­te­nar­ies, we can now move for­ward into a dif­fer­ent cen­tury where the dark shadow of war re­cedes, to be re­placed by mem­o­ries of peace and light.

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