Smut

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Recently there has been so much po-faced recollection of battles fought in France a century ago and extraordinary expenditure on the retrieval and identification of the remains of men whom few alive can possibly have known .  By now there must even be relatively few people who will have known people who knew them and grieved for them. What is the purpose of this expenditure? Is it to offer encouragement to existing servicemen and their families that if they die their bodies will be retrieved?  If so, it seems to me, the expenditure is by way of encouraging further military adventures rather than commemorating the fallen.

Both my grandfathers were at Gallipoli and then in France.

My maternal grandfather, who joined as a saddler, afterwards became a big figure in his country town RSL branch.

According to my father, his father (who enlisted in Perth on his return from Cambridge for the long vacation) never spoke of the war to his family.

After Gallipoli, my great-grandparents and especially my great-grandmother pulled all sorts of strings (letters to Sir John Forrest, visits to the War Office in Whitehall) to get my grandfather out of the AIF so that he could take up a commission with the British Army in the Field Artillery.

Some years ago my father gave me this ashtray. I know it came from his father and it seems likely to be a bit of war memorabilia.

This is the obverse:

P1100984

Ironically, the war casualty in the family turned out to be my great-grandmother. Having spent most of the war in London – doubtless in part to be close when my grandfather was back from the front, she died in the 1918 influenza epidemic

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