A Poppy for my Poppa

I had started a post for today about the highs and lows of life. But when I woke up and realised it was Remembrance Day, I wanted to acknowledge it, it’s meaning, and those it is held for.

I’ve seen comments about it not being a day to remember veterans who came home, or to thank service men and women who serve today. That it is a day to remember only those who paid the ultimate price in serving our country.

I think it’s a day to remember them and honour them, for certain. But it’s also a day to remember those who died “or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.”

I suppose peoples ideas of suffering are different. My poppa, while not injured, defended our country in Papua New Guinea. Then suffered a lifetime of memories he would never shake. Memories of things he had to do, things he almost had to do. Memories of long nights on watch and having to point his rifle at a group claiming to be allies.

18

My poppa never talked about the war. He never talked about his time serving. Not until just before he died. It was almost like he knew what was coming and wanted to get his story out.

My poppa was 23 years old when he served at Milne Bay. Just before he died, well into his 70s, he finally shared a poem he wrote (transcribed below).

Men of Milne Bay pg1

Men of Milne Bay pg 2

The Men of Milne Bay
by R.L. Peters

On August 25 when our boys were all ashore
They were suddenly awakened by the nippon guns of war
Then they opened up at half past two their task to man and stay
While their troops were landed on the north east cape of Milne Bay
But the 61st were ready with their weapons close at hand
They used them with “choco zest” as nippon came to land
They battled on incessantly till dawning of the day
Revealed to all and sundry, the attack of Milne Bay
The battle grew intensity, the nippons tried them all
But the 61st undaunted rallied to their leaders called
For this was stark reality; it was no farce nor play
When the yellow scum of Tokyo turned their guns on Milne Bay
The choco did a mighty job, after all what’s in a name?
The AIF are fighters and the chocos are the same
And fighting side by side they made the nippons dearly pay
For sneaking in like rats on the coast of Milne Bay
Conditions were appalling, torrential rain, a flood
Turned the battlefield into a huge morass of mud
But still our boys kept fighting with a grin as if to say
We’ll make the blighties pay for their assault on Milne Bay
Though casualties were moderate yet the men of Company B
Tried to uphold the standard of the Aussie infantry
And they earned the praise of men who had been wounded in the fray
When the Japs made their invasion on the shores of Milne Bay
And now the show is over we no longer wonder whether the chocos and the AIF are birds of different feathers
For they fought together side by side and they’ll do it any day
If Sago has another go at the Men of Milne Bay.

It tears me up reading this. I’m so proud of my grandfather. It makes me sad that he carried all those bad memories with him for over 50 years. It seems not much has changed, and the men and women coming home from wars and war torn countries today still suffer, whether physically injured, or not.

I hate to think where we would be without them. And while today I will remember those who have died for us, I will also be thankful for those who selflessly serve for us and our beautiful country. We truly are the lucky land, and I think we should remember that, not only today, but every day.

Are you remembering a loved one today? Have you served our country? Thank you, if you have. 

Linking up with Jess for IBOT

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9 thoughts on “A Poppy for my Poppa

  1. I have goose bumps reading your post and I too remember those who have served or fallen to protect us wherever in the world we lived.
    Today I also remember my Gran who passed away in 1976 and, while she didn’t serve, my Grandfather did and was a prisoner of war for many years. She had a difficult time dealing with him when he was finally released before, very sadly, he committed suicide in 1960 because he couldn’t stand the memories.
    Tonight A and I are off to see John Edward and I truly hope that, given the special day that it is, my family are able to come through for me.
    Lest we forget
    Lots hugs xox

  2. During our one minute silence today I was thinking about my grandfathers and great grandfathers and the effect the war had on them. My great grandfather was shot in the eye and the bullet came out the side of his head. He survived. We called him Poppa too 🙂 My grandfather came back uninjured, but as you say there is the emotional damage and the pictures you can’t erase. Thank you for sharing about your Poppa today and that powerful poem.

  3. Aroha what a precious treasure you have there from your Poppa and a bittersweet gift it is. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    Remembrance Day is my first born’s birthday, the day I became a mother fifteen years ago- so it holds mixed sentiment for me.

  4. A beautiful post about your Poppa and his time serving our country. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the way it must have felt to go through a world war, and having your way of life under threat. I’m so thankful that we have the freedoms that we do. I might complain about our country, but the reality is, without the sacrifices the diggers made and continue to make, we probably wouldn’t even be able to have this free and open discussion.

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