It is about to be 11:11am on 11th November 2011. I asked my dad to write a this post for me, Philip Castle who served in Vietnam from 1969 -71 and whose father, Frank Castle, my grandfather, served as an Australian bomber pilot in the UK in WWII and thankfully survived; many didn’t.
November 11 a time to remember the terrible cost of war.
When the guns fell silent on the eleventh hour on the eleventh month in 1918 on the western front in Europe almost everyone said; “Never again”. It is estimated more than 15 million lost their lives and Australia lost 62,000 dead from a small population of about five million. The first Australian Imperial Force suffered more than 300,000 wounded and many suffered mentally with Post Truamatic Stress Disorder or shell shock as it was known then. At the armistice Australia had almost half a million men and women in the services. Many families never came to terms with the pointless loss and more than 16,000 Australian dead have no known graves. Some have argued the beginning of the conflict for Australia and New Zealand at Gallipoli in 1915 forged our national identity: in blood.
Every country suffered badly and today it is remembered for all wars. In France and Flaunders (parts of Belguim) after the battles when many bodies were never recovered, the red poppies sprung up with such profusion most thought they symbolically represented the many hundreds of thousands lost during that savage four year conflict.
One of the great tragedies of WWI was that is almost certainly brought on WWII in which more than 20 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives with perhaps almost 17 million lost on the Russian front alone. This doesn’t of course count the cost of countless families sone of whom have never recovered from the loss of family and cruelties of post war living. Australia lost more than 33,000 dead with almost 8,000 killed by the Japanese while in captivity.
So it continues today and we remember many other conflicts for Australia including the Boer War (1899 – 1902), Korea (1950 – 56), Malaysia (early 1960s), Vietnam (1963 – 1972) and of course the more recent conflicts now highlighted in Afganistan where Australia has now suffered 32 dead and over 200 wounded.
While 80% of Australians polled who want Australia out of this latest conflict it is a time for reflections and prayers to end all such horrible conflicts; most of which are a huge waste of precious often young lives including many innocent civilians. So when observing the 11am pause; ask and pray for peace but also thankfulness for those dedicated enough in the past to serve and even die for their countries causes sometimes not justified by later history. Many noble acts are honoured and a hope and trust as we wear the red poppy to repeat the lament and desire of “Never again”.
Lest we forget. We will remember them.