Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: War, now and then

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  • Just thinking,

    ANZAC day for me is about 5am Coffee Royal (Coffee and Rum) and getting out of the RSA before 6pm or the first fight starts, which ever comes first.
    The most interesting thing happened about 10 years ago. A couple of young women walked with a quilted banner protesting the death and rape of the innocent.
    They got the courage up at the end of the service in the square and so were seen by only a few.
    Valid point that missed the mark was my impression.
    Not quite "God Hates Fags" protesting at the funerals of young service personal, but not quite on the mark either.
    I like the idea of the White Poppy, although I've never seen one.
    It has a passive dignity, clear in its meaning & without confrontation.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP,

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    Dawn Service - Auckland Museum.

    One of my grandfathers was in the home guard and the other drove the Canteen bus for the 28th Maori Battalion. He was shot through the stomach by a South African Plane*, but lived to tell the tale, and many others.

    Seems important to me that we remember all sides of the big messy equation that war is, so we can better avoid it in the future.

    *Yes, they were on our side.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2172 posts Report Reply

  • John Madden, in reply to andin,

    Not balding but aging. Trying to make the point that it may be aging that makes you not generation, thus maybe my old man's attitudes were more to do with his age than his generation. Then again, could be whistlin'.

    United Kingdom • Since Mar 2012 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • John Madden, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    No arguments, just mentions. But the word courageous pops up in the post after yours. Don't think I didn't chew over the options when I thought I might find myself in the army, let alone go somewhere and get shot. I just get the feeling the objector subject gets biffed in just in case there is too much of a hint of admiration for ex squaddies.
    Dangerous subject, worse than politics.

    United Kingdom • Since Mar 2012 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • John Madden, in reply to BenWilson,

    Ye gods, I lit a few fuses. Anyhow, don't see fighting as heroism necessarily. Research suggests a large number of soldiers shoot to miss which kinda spoofs hero angle. In WW2 the buggers got sent, didn't always volunteer, so is it just inertia?
    Don't know what a straw man is. I'm in IT and they are everywhere and signify nothing.

    My mate got caught in the draw, embraced it with enthusiasm. On leave told us (all looking like poor copies of Zappa) how he and some of his mates were on a railway platform along with a long haired bloke. They harassed and tormented this guy. Heroes all, apparently. Took 12 months for my mate to bleed off the killer instinct. Bought a Morris Minor, took up painting.

    United Kingdom • Since Mar 2012 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to John Madden,

    Trying to make the point that it may be aging that makes you

    ........What?
    Our minds are malleable no doubt, but does age mean you just change your mind for no reason. Or just drift back toward what is generally accepted by the majority?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1239 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to John Madden,

    Don't know what a straw man is.

    It's arguing against an argument that no-one made - the straw man is like a punching bag you set up to knock down. The fallacy is in then claiming to have knocked down the actual people you would seem to be arguing with.

    I'm not really sure if you're arguing with anyone, but you made a comment:

    Maybe it is just too cosy liberal round here.

    which suggested you're arguing with people on this forum about something. Are you? I couldn't actually tell. To me, you were simply reflecting in a skeptical way about the valor around war, either in involvement or in refusal. But I'm pretty forgiving of new speakers who may have inadvertently appeared to be picking a fight. Perhaps you didn't get that calling people cozy liberals appears to be a criticism, a way of saying their views are biased or uninformed?

    I want to hear more from you, new voices are usually good to get, and your perspective in this thread is interesting. I wouldn't want you to alienate yourself just because you don't know that this place has a culture of careful good manners.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

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    Wings over the house today.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6357 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

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    Wings over the house today.

    Snap. ;-)

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2172 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

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    { ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6357 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    John Madden's point that :

    The constant wheeling out of the conscientious objector and the faint hint that this was real heroism begins to grate these days. I could never resolve whether it took more guts to go or not to go but bailing out was not braver

    That and the wheeling out of the Maori Battalion by the Media as if no other were involved pisses me off
    No disrespect to the 25th, their losses on a percentage basis were higher than the rest of the NZ army but there were a lot more men involved than that
    Ok ,the conchies now hold the high ground and they were badly treated but I feel my old man and uncles would have swopped if they had known their odds of not coming back after each sorty were 1 in 10 as compared with? How many COs died?

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 548 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    The constant wheeling out of the conscientious objector and the faint hint that this was real heroism begins to grate these days. I could never resolve whether it took more guts to go or not to go but bailing out was not braver

    I'm not sure that coverage of the conscientious objectors is constant. It's a pretty small part of most ANZAC commemorations, if it's there at all.

    Ok, the conchies now hold the high ground and they were badly treated but I feel my old man and uncles would have swopped if they had known their odds of not coming back after each sorty were 1 in 10 as compared with? How many COs died?

    I suspect a number of objectors died. Some served as, for example, stretcher bearers, and some received bravery awards, for example, so I can imagine some died also.

    Having read what the likes of Baxter and Briggs underwent, I imagine very few would have taken that over just about anything.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Aren't "Who's braver?", and "Who's more important?" red herrings anyway? There are so many experiences and so many viewpoints, I'd like to hear and see more of them. I don't think remembrance is a competition.

    I liked what Jackson said

    Seems important to me that we remember all sides of the big messy equation that war is, so we can better avoid it in the future.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3494 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to John Madden,

    This was shaping up to be the nightmare that my Dad endured and I thought I had escaped. Hadn't allowed for American stupidity and Muldoon insecurity.

    Hmmmmm.....Muldoon? Vietnam?

    Me thinks it was Pahaiatua's very own Kiwi Keith who got us into that melee with the shake of the hand of POTUS Johnson as he offered Noo Zeeeland double the beef quota to the US of A.

    Ahh the sweet smell of overseas funds and napalm in the morning.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1510 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I think this practically untold story on the furlough "mutiny" is even more impressive.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1510 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Lilith __,

    I liked what Jackson said

    Seems important to me that we remember all sides of the big messy equation that war is, so we can better avoid it in the future.

    Amen to that. Good to see the RSA finally being inclusive of all experiences.

    As for complaining about coverage of the Maori Battalion, it's only Maori TV than can be bothered broadcasting the ANZAC commemorations.

    Ross Mason:

    this practically untold story on the furlough "mutiny"

    I don't know the extent of my father's involvement with that episode, as it was long after he'd died that I found the warning letters - not telegrams - from the army authorities, along with related newspaper clippings that he'd folded away in a tobacco tin and left with his sister before reporting back to Burnham camp.

    Dawn service pics from Cranmer Square.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3628 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Just thinking,

    ANZAC day for me ....

    I had a grandfather who landed at Gallipoli at 18 years old and was wounded, fought at one of the other big ones, and rounded off with the Somme and his leg shot off. Back in NZ minus a leg by 21.

    He never talked about it but every year Anzac Day was sacrosanct: Dawn Parade, breakfast and back home shickered by 1pm. (The only day in the year he got ratted.)
    The point I am making is that the commemorations weren't for us, his grandchildren -- or his children or his wife -- they were for the former soldiers. We weren't invited, and we didn't dare ask.

    The nearest we got to knowing about "the War" was peeping at the spare wooden leg in the hall cupboard.

    It has taken a long time for this country to come to terms with World War I and II. I hope that healing may now be happening with distance, because the psychological effects suffered by those soldiers have been passed down through the generations and are still being felt, especially by males in our community. We had two generations of traumatised fathers and uncles and grandfathers in our country, and many are still living, and that has had an incalculable effect on the men, their families and our society.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2634 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    We had two generations of traumatised fathers and uncles and grandfathers in our country, and many are still living, and that has had an incalculable effect on the men, their families and our society.

    Ae.
    One of my grandfather’s brothers is bits at Passenchendahl (so is his horse.)(The horse was famous in the family for its strength, speed. and courtesy. Wasted on a European battlefield.))

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Islander,

    A waste, indeed. I heard yesterday only four warhorses came back to this country.

    My partner's father was at Hiroshima a months or so after the bomb was dropped. He's severely hammered by it and has only just started talking about it. But it's to the grandchildren, not his children. And, unfortunately, with the "appropriateness" filters of his mind dented by a series of strokes and very old age, the reminiscing has been horrific for the children (the tales he told them were the most graphic I have ever heard or read, anywhere). I cannot comprehend what it must be like to carry that in your head.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2634 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Hebe,

    And, unfortunately, with the “appropriateness” filters of his mind dented by a series of strokes and very old age, the reminiscing has been horrific for the children (the tales he told them were the most graphic I have ever heard or read, anywhere). I cannot comprehend what it must be like to carry that in your head.

    Report

    O dear goodness-

    may peace & health come to the old man - and understanding to the children.

    Some of the stuff that war-survivors carry in their heads is unbeleiveably bad. And wars and other viciousnesses still continue...

    I still, understanding the human pain, mourn for Peter Miller's horse...

    (yeah, yeah, stupid- but_)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Anzac Day has always been just another day to me, and I feel very removed from it. I always have meant to go to a Dawn Parade, really as an act of solidarity more than anything else, but have never got there. I think being connected to it makes a difference. Maybe I feel as I do because the only people I knew who had gone to war were my Grandfather's twin brother, who I believe was in a prison camp and was a highly obnoxious old bugger - nowadays I understand why, as a child I just avoided him. And my father's uncle, who went to WW1 at 15, illegally, and never came back. My Dad never went. He was all set to, I understand. He had enlisted, and everything. But his father, in some way, prevented it. My grandfather, on Mum's side, was an electrician at the time, and I think the local doctor told the authorities he was a valuable asset to the community, and he didn't have to go.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    I always have meant to go to a Dawn Parade

    Do - it really makes sense in a different way than what you see on telly.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    Aren’t “Who’s braver?”, and “Who’s more important?” red herrings anyway?

    Of course, especially since a conscientious objector is objecting to going to war on moral grounds. So the bravery is irrelevant - they really think that war is a bad thing to be involved in, brave or not. You have to be brave (in the sense of being prepared to risk your life) to rob a bank, too. Doesn't make it a good thing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I still, understanding the human pain, mourn for Peter Miller’s horse…

    (yeah, yeah, stupid- but_

    Not stupid at all – feeling some kinship with the animals that suffered in that doesn’t detract from the honour/tribute paid to the men that died in that conflict. The French writer Gabrielle Colette wrote beautifully (when she was a journalist, writing for a newspaper) about a dog that had survived the front lines – no man’s land to be specific – as the assistant to the ambulance men she had alerted the medics to which man was still alive among all those corpses, during the thick of it and under heavy fire.

    When Colette interviewed the dog handler & met the dog, the animal was a quivering wreck who hadn’t slept soundly or relaxed since the war (WW 1 , freshly over). The handler/ex ambulance driver was tearful and guilty about it, saying it had been his job to shoot the dog after her service, because the dogs never recovered from that job. And his dog sat there in front of them, quivering, miserably on her mat, starting violently at each and every sound and movement. But the dog handler had found himself unable to follow protocol and, had kept this animal, and was guilty because the suffering he was causing her was more for himself than for the dog. It was quite a moving piece of writing, but I can’t find it on the net.

    The emphasis put only the “men in uniform” who perished in wars seems a modern phenomenon, and more and more the focus of the commemorations or even recollections of just about any war.

    All the veterans I’ve known – from several different wars – were vehemently of the opinion that they did not suffer nearly as much as the innocent civilians who were caught up in the slaughter,

    Here is a poem written by Robert W. Service who was a soldier in the First World War, but shortly found he had no stomach for shooting men, and switched to ambulance driver/medic – which was a substantially more dangerous role, but at least did not require him to kill people – and the subject of Robert Services' poem is a little civilian boy in France. The poem was set to music by Country Joe McDonald.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Just been reading my father's memoirs. He never talked about the war much although we knew he had been in the Home Guard. Now I have found out it was all more complex than that. He and his work colleague were both called up and deemed fit. However, their employer (who sounds like a real bully) would only let one go, and so my father's friend went (possibly also influenced by my parents being newly married). They didn't think it would last more than a few months, but he was away for 5 years. My father continued to be called up and deemed fit but his employer pulling strings and didn't let him go. So he worked long hours 6 days a week keeping the business going and went training with the Home Guard in Makara on Sundays. I think he was a little bit ashamed that he had 'only' been in the Home Guard. Certainly never wanted to talk about it.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2169 posts Report Reply

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