Thursday, April 23, 2015

Anzac Day. A personal story.

Harry Edwin Winter
My grandfather

For this Saturday's 100th anniversary of the first Anzac Day I reflect on a personal story.

Both my grandfathers fought in the First World War. Both signed up within two weeks of each other in August/September 1915.  Both joined the 32nd battalion which was raised at Mitcham in South Australia. Both sailed for Egypt on 18th November 1915.  Both came home alive. I and their many descendants are grateful they returned.

Harry Edwin Winter was the son of a farmer and politician from Port Clinton on Yorke Peninsula.  Harry's father, my great grandfather, Alfred Edwin Winter, was the State Parliamentarian for the country seat of Wallaroo.  Harry was an artist and wrote this fact down on the form as his occupation when enlisting. His war record shows he was 26 years and 7 months when he enlisted. 5'8", blue eyes and brown hair.  I remember those bright blue eyes in the face of an old man in the mid 1960s. It appears Harry quickly rose to the rank of sergeant.  His records also show the chilling fact that he was a sniper.

My mother's father, James Gordon Pendle, was one of 4 Pendles from Morgan on the Murray River to enlist.  Jame's records show he was a well borer.  He was 26 years and 5 months, two months older than Harry. It also shows he had blue eyes and brown hair.

Whether they were friends or not, I can't say.  Whether they knew each other, I don't know, but it is likely they did. I hope they did.

I know they both would have seen horrors.  The 32nd's first battle was at Fromelles on the western front on the 19th July 1916.  The 32nd battalion suffered 90 per cent casualties that day - 718 men.  The fact that both my grandfathers survived this massacre is remarkable.

After the war Harry was given leave to spend 5 months in London to study at the School of Art at  Stratford Studios.  He met my Scottish grandmother Alice, from the Orkney Islands, who was working in London at the time.  They fell in love and he brought her back to the farm at Port Clinton.
War Memorial, North Terrace Adelaide

James went home to his wife and my grandmother, also named Alice, but he was not well.  Within a few months he had disappeared.  Alice feared the worse and never saw him again.  Till her own death at 99 Alice believed he took his own life.  A few months after James disappeared my mother was born.  Alice was left a single mother with 4 children.  There was no welfare in those days so my mother was adopted out to her uncle. That is a whole other story.  But it does explain why I haven't any photos of Mum's dad, my grandfather.

The second world war saw mum's three brothers go off to be Rats of Tobruk and Harry Edwin Winter, my grandfather joined up again, as did a couple of his sons.  My dad was too young.

On Saturday my husband Kym is marching in honour of his late father, Douglas Ian Dewhirst, who served in Australia's fleet air arm from 1946 to 1959 on the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney, including the 4 years of the Korean war.

My brother Harry is at Gallipoli for the anniversary of the landing.

Lest We Forget

No comments:

Post a comment