All over, down under, New Zealand, on our Anzac Day, held every April 25th, us Kiwis pause to acknowledge those who died so that we could enjoy living in our country of freedom.
In big cities and little towns all over our land, we gather with our communities at Cenotaph ceremonies, to honour our ever growing list of, ‘Diggers’, (slang for the soldiers of New Zealand and Australia).
Because of our size, (four million people, and much more sheep), most Kiwis have, memories, and handed down stories, of a family member, who died, was wounded, or is currently serving in our Armed Forces, to keep us safe.
As the numbers of ‘Diggers’ dwindle, their places in the marches, laying of flowers and familiar readings, are being filled by many from the next generations who proudly wear family medals and red poppies, pinned on chests, in remembrance.
Growing up, I remember the sadness in my mum and Nana’s voices when they got to talking about our, ‘Poor old Digger’, as they called him, which I never understood then, as a kid, because his name was really, Gilbert Seaton.
Every Anzac day we attended the special services to remember him and the other boys they knew from our area who never came home from the war.
‘Our Digger’, wrote the following letter home to my mother and her sister, his cousins, just after his arrival overseas during WWII.
Dear Bonnie and Mona
Well girls just a few lines in answer to your ever welcome letter. I hope you both are fine getting on well in your positions. As for myself I am feeling fine never been better in fact. You both will be looking forward to Xmas I suppose. I wish I was home for Xmas.
Well we have moved into our new billets and they are great. Our troop have a Nisson hut to ourselves. There are only 14 of us so we are not crowded. We have electric light which is a privilege since leaving N.Z.
I have sent Aunty Edie and you two girls a Xmas card about a week ago and am wondering if it will reach you before Xmas. Well I had a great birthday down at the local boozer that night. I was near going to ask for the day off but I knew they would not of give it to me.
I expect you are both still going to the Saturday night dances. Our troop (No. 1.) and N0 2 have picked a football team to play 3 and 4 at footy shortly. I will have to get in some training as I am fat and short winded. Well news is short and am feeling tired so will make the old bed and crawl in.
Lots of love to you both Digger.
How poignant to think of all the young men wishing to be home for Christmas, who had to instead, look the real possibility of imminent death in the face. Sadly, six months later, he died, aged twenty three, from the wounds he had sustained in the fighting, the 30th May, 1941, while a prisoner of war.
As the final haunting sounds of the Bugler’s ‘last post’, float out on the air, across the silence, I am reminded, this could have been the last sounds heard in this life, for many on the battlefield.
So in gratitude, I hold the place of my elders who have all passed on and remember them, and ‘Our Digger’, Gilbert, Albert, Tetley, Seaton. Looking back and acknowledging where we have come from, I think, is vitally important in teaching us how to forge the correct path ahead.