The poems below are a dedication to ANZAC soldiers and their families. These are from the book “Under Wide Skies” by Jim Grahame (James Gordon – my great Grandfather). I believe that he served in WW1 and his son “Jimmy” (who was killed) and his daughter Bonnie both served in the Australian Army. Jimmy was in the AIF and Bonnie served as a nurse in New Guinea. The poems below are, I feel, reflective of the spirit of the Anzac.
Anzac Day Poetry Tribute
Flags of Destiny
From the poem Flags of Destiny
A west wind bends the trees to-day,
Their branches sway and sigh.
And yet forlorn, and drooping low,
The flags are half-mast high.
While on the gallant honour roll–
Our sacred scroll of fame–
Another golden cross goes up
beside a hero’s name.
It is not very long ago
Since flags and banners waved,
Throngs lined the way, mob rule prevailed,
Democracy was saved.
But ‘ere the bunting had been furled
In village street or town,
The flags so brave but yesterday
Were drooping half-way down.
Rides high upon the tide,
But still are flags at half-mast high,
And grief stalks high and wide.
Peace and goodwill are hand-in-hand.
But ah, the bitter peace,
For those who’s loved on lied asleep
From Borneo the Greece.
And be we with the multitude,
Or, do we stand alone,
‘Tis like a lead weight at the heart,
Or a knife thrust to the bone,
As memories come stealing back
To many such as I,
And chill the air, though warm the sun,
When flags are half-mast high.
Time, the great healer, plies his skill,
Where youth may linger yet,
For grief and sorrow passes youth
When age cannot forget.
And through long days, or the short days,
Until the night is nigh,
Forever will the shadows creep,
When flags are half-mast high.
Oh! He is a carefree casual cove,
A rollicking sort of a bloke,
With generous heart and an open hand
To a cobber that’s down and broke.
He will often drink, and he’ll curse and swear,
But we’re proud of him just the same;
He’s tough and rough and hard to bluff,
But heavens above he’s game.
He may have been born on a drover’s camp
And reared on a drover’s pack,
Where his only school was the hill or plain
That skirted the droving track.
And he may speak with a halting drawl
And slouching his gait, and slow
But he’s hard as nails and he’s straight and true,
And is ready to give it a go.
He may have a stoop and a sunken chest
With a dent on his lantern jaw,
And a sunburnt nose on a freckled face
And teeth like a cross cut saw.
And yet he is brave as his brothers were
When they fought on the other side,
On the dessert sands or on gallant ship,
With the foe like a rising tide.
Or he was born with a silver spoon,
And swaddled in satin or silk,
And tasted the pomp and power of wealth
In each drop of his mother’s milk.
Yet he has banished the old school tie,
And barbered the toothbrush “mo”,
And with never a stripe on his khaki sleeve
He is willing to give it a go.
There’s the fair skinned lad with a child’s blue eyes
And cherubic kind of a face,
Who is missing is mother’s apron string
And he feels that he’s out of place.
With his pants too long and his jacket loose,
His hat and his boots misfit,
But there isn’t a whimper or whine from him
While he’s waiting to do his bit.
And then there’s the navvy, with hands like hams,
And a jockey of five feet two,
With a policeman’s son, and a parson’s son
And an [aboriginal]* boy and a Jew.
They are facing in from way up north,
And the south where the chill winds blow,
From rim to rim, and from coast to coast,
They have rallied to give it a go.
*I’ve changed the slang reference to the aboriginal men, in the poem. This was never meant to be derogatory, rather a nod to the indigenous contribution in the war. I have chosen to do this out of respect for the indigenous people of Australia.
My Paternal Great Uncle, Kenneth Grahame Gordon or “Jimmy” (James Gordon’s younger son) was killed in action, 12th May, 1945, aged 22 years and 1 day, at Tarakan (Pte K.G. Gordon, NX124416, AIF).
My Maternal Great Uncle “Billy” was killed, but we never knew where he fell to bring him home or give him the send off he, as an ANZAC deserved. It broke Nana’s (my Great Grandmother) heart.
There is currently a book in stores, “Mates. The friendship that sustained Henry Lawson”, which is dedicated the mateship between James Gordon (Jim Grahame) and Henry Lawson.
Thank you, on ANZAC day, to all the men and women who have served in the Australian Defense Forces, whether WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Afghanistan and other areas of conflict. We honour your sacrifice.