Thursday, August 9, 2012


So I'm almost one week into vacation here in beautiful South Haven, Michigan.  Its a sleepy little holiday town on the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan.  Despite the "drought" everything looks very green and lush, in stark comparison to either our current home in Southern California or my more distant place of origin in the southwestern corner of Western Australia.

The beaches are pristine white sand, and despite the fact that is is the height of summer, there's hardly a soul on them.  As a transplanted Aussie, I never fail to be amazed by this vast expanse of fresh water stretching all the way to the western horizon.  The town is quaint, with the expected assortment of souvenir stores, cafes and restaurants.  I also find it hard to believe that in just a few months, the whole place will be blanketed by many feet of snow.
Before leaving hot and dry San Diego, I'd done my homework to see if there were any gaming stores or hobby shops in the vicinity, without much luck I'm afraid.  I'd meant to pack some recently purchased and primed Great War support figures, including mortars, snipers, and flame throwers.  However time got away from me, and I didn't get the chance to pack them together with the necessary paints and brushes.  I'm wishing I had, but their lack at least gives me the chance to reflect on other things, and to make some resolutions for what remains of the painting and gaming year.

The heavily wooded central park situated on the north side of the river that meanders through the town and empties into the lake is the site of a memorial that I find all too rare here in the United States - a statue dedicated "To our Heroes Veterans of the World War 1917-1918"

I can't recall ever seeing another memorial to the Great War here in the United States.  I'm sure they exist, but I dare to say they must be relatively rare, particularly in comparison to the glorification of the veterans of the Second World War that one finds with relative frequency.  As an Australian, a few things struck me as unfamiliar.  Firstly, most of our memorials to the Great War are to the fallen - "The Glorious Dead" - rather than the heroic victors.  Secondly, in place of the figure of the lone Digger, frequently portrayed with a subdued stance, reflecting soberly on the sacrifices of four years of bloody conflict, the Dough boy charges forward with a fist raised defiantly.  Finally there are the dates - 1917-1918 - reminding me that war came relatively late to the young men of these parts who went "over there."

The memorial in my home town of Mundaring, Western Australia, is a little less animated.  I'm guessing the civic leaders of this very small country town couldn't afford a Digger in bronze and settled instead for an obelisk hewn in granite no doubt procured from one of the quarries that dot the nearby hills.

There's hardly a town or city in Australia that doesn't have a similar monument, great or small, to the sacrifice made by a young nation.
More imposing is the King's Park War Memorial that stands sentinel above the modern city of Perth.
The nearby semi-circular wall etched with place names of battles is also know to locals as "the whispering wall."  Its acoustic qualities can carry a small voice along its curved stone surface to the ears of a listener at the farther end.

The memory I want convey at the end of this post is a privileged one.  The original Anzacs are now gone.  I'm fortunate to have at least seen and known some of them.  Back in the 1970s I can remember going to the annual Anzac Day parade in downtown Perth.  Some old Diggers could still march, while the more frail Great War veterans where transported along the route in cars.  I can recall a few ancient members of the 10th Light Horse, resplendent in their uniforms, with the Emu feathers fixed to their slouch hats quivering in the breeze, proudly riding their mounts down St. George's Terrace.  That's a memory my boys will never have, but when we go at least I'll make sure they sit next to Gallipoli, whisper and listen.
Lest we Forget.