Despite the challenges and difficulties of modern day life - we have it easier than many generations before us. This week I am wearing a poppy with pride and gratitude to my granddad and all the earlier generation who suffered unimaginable hardships so that we have freedom and privilege today.
When he was 20, granddad volunteered for the war, he joined the 25th Battalion in Queensland. It was 1915, the early days of the war. After training in Enoggera, they sailed to Sydney, then to Egypt, from there to Gallipoli. After spending several months in Gallipoli, they were transferred to the western front. Their first significant battle was at Pozieres, there 785 of the 1023 men in the 25th battalion died in that one battle. I sometimes remember this when I am having a bad day or a bad week, and I feel grateful for the life that I have.
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones, he was shot in the groin, fortunately not a dead centre hit as he went on to have my father (albeit many years later) From Pozieres he was sent to England to recover. Being wounded and getting a ticket to Blighty was something the soldiers looked forward too, a break from the appalling conditions at the front. Things like decent food, a comfortable bed, any bed, after all they often slept on the ground in the mud. My great uncle Dick was thrilled one time when he found a sheet of corrugated metal to sleep on so he didn’t have to lie in the mud.
My Grandad recovered from his gunshot wound and then returned to the Western Front. He was wounded twice again, sprayed with shrapnel and then later on he was bayoneted. I marvel at the courage, the guts, and the balls of these men, badly wounded and then continuing to fight on as soon as they had recovered.
The 25th Battalion lost 1,026 men and had 2,821 wounded during the war. These losses were the highest number of casualties of any Australian battalion that served during the WW1. There were so few of them left by the end of the war, they were disbanded and reformed into the 9th battalion. And the remaining men mutinied for the first time, upset at losing their name and I guess by then what was their identity - that of a well-known fighting battalion.
Happy Armistice Day Grandad, thank you to you and your comrades for all that you did for us. RIP John Alphonsus Sullivan