Anzac Day 2016. My Mantelpiece Shrine

My Shrine
My Shrine

I’m not particularly nationalistic and neither was he. Dad marched every year on Anzac day, mainly to catch up with his old mates from his WW2 army battalion, followed by a few beers together afterwards at a pub in the city, a once a year activity for him as he was not a pub person. As the years passed, the veterans’ numbers thinned, and then he passed too. I wonder if any men still remain from his unit.

My shrine in the living room shows Dad as a young digger in his army uniform. He was blond-haired, blue-eyed, of slight build and height, with a ready toothy smile. He also had graceful elongated hands. He wore that uniform for five years, the time he spent in New Guinea, but I don’t recall seeing it as a child. He did keep the hat. Dad wrote to my mother every day throughout the war. She would often receive 5 letters at once. He spent his evenings hand drawing and colouring little cartoons of everyday army life onto envelopes. He also drew extras to sell cheaply to other chaps who were keen to impress their loved one back home. Dad was so artistic. Mum stored all these wartime envelopes in an album and I loved looking at them as a kid. He also kept his old coloured pencils in his gentleman’s robe along with the medals and a few other small mementos from the war. I can still smell his wardrobe today, the faint whiff of tobacco, a slight musty aroma, and see the gleam of his war medals hanging from short lengths of colourful striped cloth.

My mother recently had replicas made of my father’s WW2 medals – five sets in all – which were distributed to his five male grandchildren. The rest of us, his three daughters and three granddaughters, missed out! So I grabbed this little photo of Dad in his uniform and made my own shrine and surrounded him with some of the things that he loved- smalls rocks and gemstones and his ‘long life’ pendant, the one he wore every day for 29 years from the age of 60, the one I gave him for his birthday.  I don’t know if Dad would like all the other paraphernalia close by, broken bits of a fire damaged Buddha and old Chinese wooden panels, probably not, but he would love those gemstones. I must add another little crystal to his shrine today. Sometimes I scatter the petals of a flower on the mantelpiece or light a scented candle. There aren’t many solemn or mindful moments in my life but this is one of them.

Past Anzac Day posts:

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/anzac-day-2014-commemorating-slaughter-with-a-biscuit/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/that-man-in-the-picture-anzac-day-2015/

 

17 thoughts on “Anzac Day 2016. My Mantelpiece Shrine”

  1. This sounds like my Uncle Bob, my most favourite uncle. He served in Palestine, Crete and New Guinea. He never spoke of the war and would not attend Anzac services. My mother says the war changed him forever. He was also a gifted artist and would draw the graves of his mates and send them to the families. He also drew cartoons on envelopes for his wife, Rose, who died recently at 94. She kept everything and now his daughters will do the same. We loved him to draw for us and pestered him all the time. He never refused.
    These men were true heroes and I miss my uncle very much.

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  2. A beautiful and moving post. I remember seeing my dad/s wartime diary and also photos of him in Egypt and Italy with the eighth army. Alas there’s no trace of them now. I just wonder where they have gone.

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  3. Even though I did not grow up in Australia and have no relatives who served in Australian forces, I have somehow developed a bond with the diggers and what they did and how they did it. A very touching post Francesca and lovely memories of your Dad.

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  4. A touching tribute to your Dad. My Grandfather served in both wars, he found solace in silence. It wasn’t until after his death at 94yrs we really understood what he had been through. The horrors he experienced as a teenager are unimaginable. I like to treat ANZAC day as a day to remember those blokes who lost their lives, whose lives have been inextricably altered, but also as a grave reminder that war is not a game, everyone is a loser

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  5. Such a moving piece, Francesca. He sounds like the sort of man the world needs more of. I have a very ambivalent attitude to ANZAC Day, but these very personal memories are what it should be about. Thank you.

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  6. Lovely tribute, both the words and shrine. We were at dawn service this morning, and back again this afternoon for the main. Your dad will be in my thoughts. Lest we forget.

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  7. Really moving, your account of your Dad, the marching on of time and your shrine. My maternal Pop fought in WWII, there is an special photo of him on a horse in Egypt that one of my aunts has. Must get a copy. He took great pride in his war service but like your Dad was never boastful and he didn’t really talk about it much, unless a few drams of whisky had been imbibed.

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  8. Why did I know there would be a faint smell of tobacco in his gentlemans robe? I was taken right back to remembering my dad who never mentioned anything at all about his time serving. He too once a year, did the catch up with mates but he did not march. Wouldn’t it be weird if they had been in PNG together? I often wear his ‘tam ‘o shanter’ when I’m in the garden and he was a baker in his early years so he is always thought about when I bake. Lovely post.

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    1. Maybe our Dad’s knew each other in PNG or after? I like to think so. Dad saved his slouch hat and it was great for dress ups as a kid- it was a bit tattered and rat eaten as it lived in the shed. Happy baking, thinking of your Dad and happy gardening, thinking of your Dad too.

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