Today I am going for a little stroll down the centre of The Strand. When I get to the Cenotaph, I’ll be greeted by Her Majesty the Queen. Okay, so there will be a few hundred others also doing the walking, and the Queen won’t be greeting me per se, but it’s still a pretty big deal in our family.
As most of you probably know by now, today marks the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli and in London, despite the fact that the whole thing was a cock-up of monumental proportion thanks in no small part to the British Admiralty, it is being celebrated with full pomp and ceremony. Which is how I get to be walking down The Strand. For the first time ever, the London Anzac Day ceremony will feature a march by direct descendants of the original Anzacs. Of which I, by virtue of my maternal grandfather, Cheviot Dundee Marshall, am one.
All going well you will be able to read more about this once-in-a-lifetime experience later in the week, but let’s just say I expect the buttons on my 80-quid op-shop overcoat will be in grave danger of popping off as I proudly puff out my chest and set off from Horse Guards Avenue around 10.30am London time.
I didn’t get to spend much time with Cheviot – or Chief, as his family used to call him – but I do remember one story that my mother told me about his wartime experiences. A shopkeeper, he once took her as a kid to the early morning markets to buy some produce. At one of the stalls he introduced her to an old army pal. “Say hello to Hopeless,” he said. Later she asked why he called him Hopeless. “Because every morning during the war he’d wake up, look around and say, ‘This is hopeless’.”
No doubt I’ll be thinking a lot about my grandfather and my mother as I walk down The Strand today. I might spare a thought for old Hopeless as well.
ard postc from n londo