Friday, April 25, 2008

What a bunch of RSoLes

Truly, have these people lost it? Are they cognisant of what it is they are doing? One can, on the evidence, only conclude that "age shall not enlighten them nor the years illuminate". What a claque of clowns.

It is, of course, the RSL that I refer to. Specifically their insistence - in NSW at least - that "descendants" of veterans be dispatched to the "rear" of the ANZAC Day march. Anyone who has attended the march regularly will be only too well aware that the "rear" is that which "steps off" after the march itself. That is after midday at the earliest; a time when interest is akin to that of a bloke who's "done the deed".

The RSL's attitude is summed up by a respondent to the SMH's online discussion:

"Banish the status seekers and wannabe warriors," one said on
"Let the diggers enjoy their one day of the year - it's about them and their
sacrifice, not the relatives."

Which only reveals the utter ignorance of the person writing. People such as myself march these medals around each year year so as to be a "wannabe warrior"? Piss off. People such as my brothers and sisters, my children and theirs march these medals around so as to be "wannabe warriors"? Piss off. Such ignorant arseholes betray a complete lack of understanding. As does the RSL.

There are no more WWI "diggers". There are precious few WWII "diggers". There no longer is anyone to carry the standards of those extraordinary men who threw themselves at the unbroken German razor wire at Fromelles (5533 casualties in 14 hours); Poziers (5285 casualties); Mouquet Farm; Villers-Bretonneux; Passchendaele and Ypres. No one left but those who, like myself and my siblings, carry the medals of those campaigns each and every ANZAC Day around Martin Place.

Who do these irrelevant buggers think they are? We do not march as some sort of glory seeker. We do not seek to bask in some glory we never shed blood for. We do, though, have a huge respect for the sacrifice made by those who did earn these medals. We do believe that those medals should "march" each year (as they bloodywell will this year). And I do believe that those medals should march in the units to which they bloodywell belong. If not, what the hell is the point?

Really, this march will disappear up its own fundamental orifice once the WWII vets go the way of those of WWI. All will be sent "to the rear". The RSL will get what it richly deserves": irrelevancy.

I well remember the protracted battle my father waged - as the local RSL Club Chairman - to change the name to R&SL Community Club. It wasn't "community" that upset them, it was the "and". You see, the club should be for "returned men" only - not "service" men. Seemingly they wish to atrophy upon the vine. They are welcome to it: I resigned my (associate) membership after dad's death.

I also well remember, more than twenty years back, asking Jack (the Old Man) if it would "right" if I joined him on the march to wear my grandfather's medals. There was a silence, seemingly longer than it was, before he replied that he thought that it was the most "right" of things. He had, in fact, been wondering whether anyone (of us) would ever ask. One of the best things I ever did.

Jack marched with service mates each year. I marched with them. Since then so have the siblings and, a couple of years back, my two children. They were well instructed in what this meant. And, not to upset anyone and with the RSL making the same noises then, I asked Jack's last extant mate whether he minded the kids marching the medals with me. His reply was succinct: "Who the hell do they think they are? I think it's just the best thing - these kids are the future of this march. Those medals need to do the rounds and I'm proud to have them along whether they, you or your brothers and sisters carry them".

The RSL needs to wake up to itself. It is in imminent danger of taking itself way too seriously. Something the "diggers" rarely did. The RSL NSW pesident certainly takes himself seriously:

"Sadly, we are coming to the point where there won't be any Second World War
veterans in the march at all because they will not be well enough to do it,"
said the president of the NSW RSL, Don Rowe.

"That's when the descendants will have to take up the banner."

What a goose. Do we wait until units are down to ones and twos? Just like the WWI vets have gone: who's taken up the banner? People like us who are told to march when it's all over. Fool.

The siblings have discussed it and we've decided that grandad's strip - a rare strip - will be donated to the War Memorial should this be the way things are. There's no way they'll be reduced to the irrelevancy of marching with an ever enlarging mish-mash of "descendants" after the march is, to all intents and purposes, over.

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Blogger Kathy Farrelly said...


25/4/08 9:44 AM  
Blogger Kathy Farrelly said...

Bloody blogger!
Very sad state of affairs Mike.
I am shaking my head. Truly.
I can certainly understand your frustration and despair!

Btw glad to see you back.
Missed ya mate!

25/4/08 9:47 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Been way too busy to much: 05:30 alarms and all this crap for Cert IV in Training and Assessment. Off to Burrinjuck next week for some R&R and black beer.

Missed the start of the Sydney march on ABC. Would have been most interested to see who carried the 1st AIF banners and just how many of those precious medals from Bullecourt, Messines or Mont St Quentin saw the light of day in their proper positions.

Jarcob too seems to have taken a rest. Might have to find time to find a goat for him...

25/4/08 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Yes, good to hear from you Mike. And hi Karthy.

Was thinking, Mike, maybe you and your sibs should become (assoc) members again to 'renew' the RSL, from the inside. Give 'em hell, and all that. But then that assumes there's something there one can work with...

Yes, busy myself and a bit worn down by the 'tennis' injury to be spending more time than necessary in front of one of these pooters.

Today's goat is indeed present and accounted for, 2 posts below. (I've time-stamped Mike's post to give it priority on Anzac Day.)

25/4/08 10:41 AM  
Blogger Caz said...

Yes, it's all a bit short-sighted.

I would not have know that 'coming up the rear' meant 'marching' after mid-day when everyone has left, so that clarifies the extent of the silliness.

Bit of an insult to everyone really.

26/4/08 11:11 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

I quite understand the concerns of vets who think that the significance of the march might be lost amid a bunch of tennuously connected relos taking over.

That is not what most of us "descendants" are about. The point is that those medals - won with blood - should still have their place. The numbers of WWII vets in Sydney yesterday were significantly down. Not surpising given these people are in the mid eighties plus.

I watched and noted that the last extant mate of Jack was not there although it is possible I might have missed him.

Jack's and Sgt John Park's medals did the rounds in Wagga Wagga with younger brother and his son Jack. As well they should.

For the life of me, I cannot see what is to be gained by any of us marching at the tail of the march - when it is essentially over - rather than in the main march. That is were the service medals belong.

I missed the start of the march and hence do not know what was left of the WWI brigades. Obviously not vets but the colours must have been carried. The question is why not the service medals?

On matters aside from the march, the dawn service held - for the first time - at the monument at Villers-Bretonneux was something to see. Moving is the word.

I would encourage any Australian - whether they have an interest in history or not - to find and read an account of what the undermanned Australian battalions did at this village. Extraordinary.

Indicative is the reply to the retreating 1st Lancishire fusiliers as they ran through the town shouting that the Germans were coming: "Mind you don't get drowned in the Channel".

The French of this village have held a memorial service in rememberance of the Australians each April 25th (coincidentally the date of its saving by the Australians) since the war. Every year.

Tells you all you need to know. I'd write it up if I'd the time.

Not to take away anything from Gallipoli but, over the years, it has garnered all the attention and the limelight. What the Australian divisions achieved on the Western Front between 1916 amd 1918 is a story hugely ignored and largely forgotten in the ever rising "stardom" of the slaughter on Gallipoli.

Not for nothing did the Germans regard the Australian and Canadian troops as the best of the British troops. Sgt John Alexander Park, who won the Military Medal at Mouquet Farm, well knew why.

26/4/08 1:41 PM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Err, pardon the sermon...

26/4/08 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Lateline on Thursday night did a feature on the Diggers on the Western Front, particularly Villers-Bretonneux. See transcripts and/or video...

Out of the shadow of Gallipoli - the growing significance of the Western Front

Historian Michael McKernan tells the story of the diggers in France.

26/4/08 3:37 PM  
Blogger Gardagami said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

27/4/08 10:37 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Nicely found Jacob. For some reason my media Player will not play the links. Doesn't matter, the transcripts - typos and all (Hague for Haigh??!!) - are fine.

McKernan does a nice "potted" history. The story about the change of clothes and underwear is quite true. Some of the individual stories of valour are little short of amazing.

One of my favourites is the story of Lt. Donovan Joynt and his command post in Hazebrouck, north of Villers-Bretonneoux, near Ypres. This was between the two actions at the latter. Joynt and his troops (8th battalion of the 1st division) were ordered to "hold" Hazebrouck against the oncoming German offensive. He marched into town and set up his command post in a farmhouse of eight rooms on its outskirts. Having settled things he went to check his forward positions. Here English Guards units were retreating headlong to the rear(this was the scene I mistakenly referred to as occurring at Villers-Bretonneux above). Joynt returned to the farmhouse to hear the grammophone playing and his men dressed in frock coats and top hat whilst others were dressed as "women". They were dancing. The Germans then marched into town thinking that all resistance had ended and Joynt ordered his men to stand to and fire.

This they did: whether frock-coated or in dresses. They held on for days and eventually held the town and stopped the German offensive.

Off to the 'Juck day after tomorrow. Perhaps I'll post a pic or two when back next Sunday.

27/4/08 11:09 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

What a glorious story Father.

Ah, valor in a frock. Bless 'em.

They don't make men like that anymore, or maybe they do, but they're eclipsed by the metro-men.

Looking at some of the "under 16s" on telly the other night, those still alive who lied about their age so they could enlist as 14 and 15 year olds - god, impossible to fathom.

Wouldn't wish it on new generations, or their families, but my, my, my how the times have changed!

28/4/08 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Hopefully that potted history as presented on Lateline may help stimulate further interest in those events.

Not sure what 'significance' the late emphasis on 'our successes' on the Western Front (as against 'our glorious failure' at Gallipoli) might signify for Australia culturally.

Have fun at the 'Juck, Mike, hopefully water levels will have improved.

"Wouldn't wish it on new generations..."

Yeah, Amen to that, Caz!

29/4/08 1:28 AM  

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