Lost diggers, lost souls

On Sunday Night this week, the main story was about finding thousands of glass plates, negatives of soldiers, including diggers in the attic of a derelict farmhouse in Vignacourt in France. They were allegedly taken around 1916. I could not find an image of my grandfather among those posted but he may have been there.

My mother’s father, Bill,  enlisted into the Australian Defence Forces in 1914 and became a private in the 13th Light Horse. I have included his picture below, as it shows the slouch hat, worn at the correct angle (three fingers over left ear, two fingers over left eyebrow, one finger over right eyebrow). This picture may help identify others in the new images as being in the Light Horse.

We know from military records that my grandfather was injured twice and returned to active duty after the first, but not the second (gun shot wound). He eventually made his way home, took up boot making again and married my grandmother. We know very little else because he died in 1932  from complications of said injuries (we know not what) when Mum was only three years old. Granny was not one to dwell on the past and did not speak of him.

He was not the only one of my relatives over there. He had an older brother Charlie and five younger brothers. I don’t know exactly how many of the brothers went to war but  Charlie definitely did and Dave and Fred would have been old enough in 1914. They could have been in a movie, four brothers with very ordinary Aussie names, Charlie, Bill, Dave and Fred. Oh wait….

None of them were killed during the war but they were not the same afterward. They returned back to the family home and tried to get jobs. Mostly they ate their meals and went for walks. I often wonder how their mother was able to bear watching their disengagement and, probably, pain. Or maybe she was too busy with the other three boys (Herb, Art and Tom) and the 2 of 3 sisters still alive (Vera and Esther). One day Charlie told his mother he was going to buy a pound of sausages. He grabbed his hat, waved and stepped out the door.

He was never seen again. No one ever found out what happened to him but I suspect the huge black cloud of post-traumatic stress disorder over most of Australia had something to do with it. In those postwar depression years, many broken young men walked out of their own lives and were lost. These lost souls are also lost diggers.

About drmmobs

Medical Researcher
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