Archive for April, 2011

ANZAC Day 2011

ANZAC Day lives on.

Despite age taking its toll, and in defiance of the rather wet weather, eight 463-467 Sqn veterans took part in the Sydney march on Monday with a group of ten or fifteen descendents and family members following behind. The rain, threatening all morning, held off for the most part while we were marching.

While the rain did fall at times, it failed to keep the crowds away. George St was lined four or five people deep for most of its length as we marched past. I think this fact alone is proof that ANZAC Day remains relevant and keeps its place in the hearts of many Australians.

Ten veterans were at the lunch that followed the march. Left to right, they were: David Skinner, Alan Buxton, Hugh McLeod, Don Southwell, Bill Purdy, Albert Wallace, Harry Brown, Don Browning, George Douglass, Don Huxtable.

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But the nature of the commemoration of ANZAC Day will and must change. The men who fought in WWI are no more. And the men who fought WWII are getting on a bit. Before too many more years have gone by, there will be noone left who ‘was there’. So it will fall to the younger generation to ensure that these men – in the main, ordinary lads living in extraordinary times – and what they did is not forgotten. I’m always touched by the sentiments of the veterans I speak with on ANZAC Day. They are pleased as punch that there are younger people present, at both the march and the lunch. I think they are happy to know that someone will carry the banner down George St, long after they have gone. For me, as one of those younger people, hearing this is rather humbling.

Want further proof that there is a new generation of people remembering? Half way through lunch on ANZAC Day, a group of 20 young musicians entered. 11apr-anzac-day-017 copy

They were the Australian Army Cadets Band and had been playing a few numbers at some of the other ANZAC Day lunches that were taking place around the city. They had a mighty sound and were a wonderful surprise for all present. Lest we forget, indeed!

© 2011 Adam Purcell

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Must be the time of year

There are a few articles like the one that appeared in the Sun-Herald today that tend to appear around this time of year. This one tells the story of a man named Fred Reeves, a Digger killed at Gallipoli in 1915. Or rather it tells the story of how an interested descendant – a great niece in this case – pieced together Fred’s story.

More power to Judy McLeod’s elbow, I say. She started with a name in a family Bible and a hunch that the date given with the name – 1915 – could have been connected with the First World War. She was right. He had been killed in Gallipoli and has no known grave.

“I am glad I looked into this otherwise he would just be another statistic. There is nobody to even say he existed and fought and died for his country.” – Judy McLeod, great niece of Australian infantryman Fred Reeve

This quote for me is the most important part of the article. Through the curiosity of one interested individual, almost a century later, the name scribbled into the Bible has come to life.

There has been a real resurgence in interest in this sort of family research in recent years. Indeed, my own work could be said to be part of it as well. I put it down to a couple of happy coincidences. Perhaps the salient one from a practical point of view has been the information and speed of communications that comes from the internet. It’s become much more accessible to the average person and so it’s easier to turn an idle curiosity into a keen family history interest. We can find records online that previously would have involved letters to archives overseas, if not an actual trip overseas. Investigations that previously would have taken months can now find answers from the other side of the world in literally minutes. In short, people can work in the comfort of their own homes, without having to pore through musty files in some record depository somewhere (though some (like me) might say that doing that is what it’s all about anyway!).

The other factor, more relevant in this case than in my own work into the crew of B for Baker, is the upcoming centenary of the Gallipoli landings in four years time. It means that ANZAC Day is receiving more and more media coverage each year. There are no WWI veterans alive in Australia anymore, but there are more and more people investigating family connections to the conflict – giving names and stories to their own ‘man in the photograph’. For remembering men like Fred Reeves, who would otherwise as Judy McLeod said be just another statistic, this can only be a good thing.

© 2011 Adam Purcell

The Crew of B for Baker

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The crew of LM475 B for Baker, an Avro Lancaster Mk III of 467 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, arrive on dispersal at RAF Waddington on the evening of 11 April 1944. Their target is Aachen in Germany.

The crew is made up of seven men: Pilot S/L DPS Smith, Navigator W/O RW Purcell, Flight Engineer Sgt KH Tabor, Bomb Aimer Sgt J Parker, Wireless Operator F/Sgt AD Johnston, Mid-Upper Gunner Sgt ER Hill and Rear Gunner F/Sgt GF Pate. One month after the Aachen raid, B for Baker failed to return from an operation to Lille, France. Of these seven men, only the pilot would survive.

This painting, by aviation artist Steve Leadenham, was specially commissioned by Adam Purcell, the great nephew of the navigator. It serves as a tribute to these seven men – but also to the 125,000 who also served in Bomber Command during WWII. The story of how this project developed can be read in the archives of SomethingVeryBig. Click here.

High-quality 80x40cm archival reproductions of this painting are now available for purchase direct from the artist at the rate of AUD45.00, plus postage to anywhere in the world.

For details on how you can obtain your own copy of this very special image, contact Steve directly through his website: http://leadenham.com/contact.html.

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See more of Steve’s work at www.leadenham.com.