Inner Circle

 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dear Inner Circle,

Anzac Day was a special one for me this year. I spent several days moving around the various battlefields on the Western Front where thousands of Australian soldiers lost their lives and where thousands were so traumatised that they spent the rest of their lives suffering from what we would now call, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. My father used to visit old soldiers at Concord Hospital when I was just a school boy. I saw men in the 1960s still hiding under beds and shaking uncontrollably. That was when Dad first explained "shell shock" to me and it was my first attempt to understand the phenomenon that still today causes me to struggle.

At Fromelles I found the headstone of Private C Myers who enlisted at 15 years. After failing his first attempt to enlist, he applied again as C Morgan, this time successfully. Fromelles was his first taste of battle and at 16 years, the end of his life. There are more than 2,000 cemeteries dotted over France and Belgium as a result of World War I and in one place I visited, there were over 45,000 mostly young men buried.

Someone told me that so many shells were dumped on our soldiers that one hundred years later you could still just walk over the fields and pick up shrapnel. What I thought must have been an exaggeration turned out to be an understatement. Sometimes in battlefields not much bigger than a football field, literally millions of shells were rained down upon poor soldiers who lived not day-to-day or minute-to-minute but literally, second-to-second. I went to the windmill site at Poziers and by walking in the fields for 10 minutes, I could have filled the boot of a car with fragments of bombs and the lead balls that exploded from shells with deadly effects on human bodies. We picked up a live hand grenade. You read that correctly – we picked up a live hand grenade! I wondered about bringing it home as a trophy but rehearsed telling Boarder Security that all I had to declare was a live hand grenade! I had visions of closing down airports and making the news, not for good reasons. We decided to bury the item so that it should never again see the light of day.

Let me tell you something you probably don't know. At the battlefield of Passchendaele, perhaps the most miserable of all battlefields, at a cemetery called Tyne Cot, I came across a large group of British kids all dressed as Australian soldiers! Think about that for a minute. These kids must have spent a small fortune to get every detail of these uniforms correct. I have never seen such a uniform and before me were about forty British kids fully kitted out in Australian uniforms. Each kid had identification tags of an Australian soldier and they each had to find the name of their soldier in the cemetery. I thought this battle was one where Canadians played the greater role but the school children set me straight. Who in Australia would guess such a thing. A fellow near me told me that he had met some Belgian kids also kitted out as Australian soldiers in a similar exercise.

Do Australians realise the critical role we played in France in bringing that horrible war to an end? Other countries teach their kids that the brilliant Sir John Monash, the only bloke to be knighted on the battlefield, changed the concept of leadership and of battle tactics. After years of bloodshed for no progress, he planned a battle at Le Hamel to last 90 minutes and it lasted 93. "Feed your soldiers on victory" he used to say. I suspect if Australia had a healthier outlook, we'd celebrate Villers Bretonneux more than any other battle of that war. It is something that we ought to be proud about and it is a place where Australian leadership and Australian determination made a massive impact upon the world.

We should remember the failures, especially Fromelles, which was bravely fought, hand-to-hand combat; bayonet-in-the-neck type of fighting at one point and at another, a march into a hailstorm of machine gun fire. It wasn't a failure of courage, but it was a failure of planning, strategy and generalship. Let's remember also the brilliance of Sir John Monash and the Australian and Canadian successes that finally saw progress and an end to that unspeakably, inhuman nightmare that we call, "The Great War".

Next week I'll be home and writing from Wayside. Thanks for being part of this inner circle,


Graham


Rev Graham Long AM

CEO & Pastor

The Wayside Chapel

www.revgrahamlong.com

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Previous Inner Circles

2016

21 April: I've seen into the abyss

14 April: Colourful language

7 April: Poetic licence

31 March: Happy in the Cross

24 March: Easter

17 March: A party mix

10 March: The intimacy of everything

3 March: An unusual look

25 February: He ain't heavy

18 February: Tears of laughter and sadness

11 February: Wisdom is a tricky business

4 February: A wave from The Wayside Chapel

28 January: Some long distance loving

21 January: No time for judgement

2015

17 December: Last note for 2015

10 December: Sanity Clause if coming to town

3 December: It's all about the presence

26 November: The joy of not knowing

19 November: The curse of perfectionism

12 November: To speak is to act

5 November: My cup runneth over

29 October: Prophet and loss

22 October: Finding yourself in a magical team

15 October: A silly question

8 October: Surprised by the joy

1 October: Being dead right

24 September: A day by the Wayside

17 September: It's a gold rush

10 September: The psychology of onions

3 September: Life comes from without

27 August: Surprised by the beautiful

20 August: Light shining through the cracks

13 August: A matter of balance

6 August: Recognising a gift

30 July: Your weakly note

23 July: 'A thing' from the Wayside

16 July: The future is calling

9 July: In love with some Dame

2 July: Better days ahead

25 June: Something funny, something beautiful

18 June: Seeing what's there

11 June: Amazing mates

4 June: There's a time and a place

28 May: The weight and the joy of being a neighbour

21 May: You're invited

14 May: Laughing, lying and loving

7 May: The awesome in the ordinary

30 April: Wayside light

23 April: Priceless gifts, freely given

16 April: Good news from the Wayside is great news

9 April: Awesome

2 April: Easter by the Wayside

26 March: Thankful for little things

19 March: A few minutes in the cross

12 March: Seeing what isn't there

5 March : A tour like no other

26 February: Tough love

19 February: Puffing or building

12 February: The two shall become two

5 February: Chest pains

29 January: Shear joy

22 January 2015: Fully alive

15 January 2015: Blessed interruptions

8 January 2015: A glimpse of glory

2014

18 December 2014: Christmas hat in hand

11 December 2014: A little season of goodwill

4 December 2014: There was nothing silent about that night

27 November 2014: It's not about feeling better

20 November 2014: Gathering Moss

13 November 2014: Love the land, love the people

6 November 2014: The power of presence

30 October 2014: Paralysed by presence

23 October 2014: The joy of sight

16 October 2014: The best medicine

9 October 2014: Who would have guessed?

2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist

21 August: Saving souls

14 August: Squeaking out

7 August: A time for turning

31 July: You're okay

24 July: Happy tears

17 July: Let's aim higher

10 July: Gristle and good

3 July: The joy of not knowing

26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?

12 June: Longing for riches

5 June: When you least expect it

22 May: Finding home

15 May: Flying

8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues

1 May: Skuse the French

24 April: Lifting the curtain

17 April: Collective love

10 April: Cardiac arrest

3 April: Awe struck

27 March: You're invited to something special

20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss

13 March: It's all happening at the wayside

6 March: Love makes all the difference

27 February: What goes around

20 February: The joy of being empty handed

13 February: Loving the growth spurts

6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside

23 January: Some criminals have class

16 January: Wonderful surprises

9 January: Ready, set

2013

19 December: Thanks for an awesome year

12 December: Mission and wishin'

5 December: The ups and downs and all is well

28 November: Kissed by the community

21 November: Our cup runneth over

14 November: A revelation from wayside

7 November: When excrement happens

31 October: I am therefore I think

24 October: We are surrounded by heroes

17 October: When you least suspect

26 September: A wayside wobbly

19 September: Knowing a gift

12 September: Advancing at the retreat

5 September: A little dose of good

29 August: Fighting with a feather

22 August: The boom is just beginning

15 August: True riches

8 August: Small is beautiful

1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views

25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside

18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage

27 June: Holy ground

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given

 

 

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