Being Master of Ceremonies at the launch of “This company of brave men – The Gallipoli VC’s” exhibition at the State Library of South Australia was a moment to celebrate some of the things that make Australia great.
The stories of these soldiers have an underlying theme of ordinary men placed in extraordinary situations rising to the heights of bravery and selflessness by putting the lives of others before their own.
Australia suffered cruelly. 8709 of our finest young people died at Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in eight months of bloody battle.
Although it ended in defeat for the Allies it is where the ANZAC (Australian New Zealand army Corps) spirit was born.
As we celebrated our Victoria Cross heroes at the State Library I couldn’t help but think of my two grandfathers who fought and suffered monstrous injuries in World War One. But they did come home.
Remarkably both my grandfathers each lost a leg in battle, but they recovered, had families and lived on into their 70’s.
I have vivid memories of them getting about on crutches or wearing a prosthetic leg. My grandpa Wilson called it a ‘wooden leg” but even back in the 50’s there was no wood in it.
Growing up with grandfathers with one leg didn’t faze me, I’d never seen them any other way, so a visit to a friends place really shook me up.
I must have been about 6 or 7 at the time. I was playing with my friend when someone I’d never seen before came into the living room.
He appeared quite elderly, but when you’re barely school age every adult does.
However, this gentlemen was clearly much older than my friend’s parents.
Who’s that I asked when he left the room. “That’s my grandpa.”he said. “Who?,” I exclaimed.
“My grandpa.” No it isn’t, it can’t be .” I said. “ Because he’s got two legs.”
I couldn’t be convinced this two legged gent was indeed a grandfather thinking that the elder statesmen of families all came with a leg missing.
It was some years later before I realised how unique I was having two grandfathers with only two legs between them.