On Sunday, November 11 2018 at 11.00am the world will stop and remember that after a long, gruelling, deadly war that shaped both history and nations alike, the guns finally stopped a century ago.
The centrepiece of the Australian commemoration at the Australian War Memorial will be the installation of 62 000 knitted red poppy flowers. each representing an Australian life lost during the conflict. While those 62 000 voices have been silent for a century, this new book, a companion to My Gallipoli, brings together the voices of many who waited for the inevitable outcome. From the Chief Allied Interpreter, soldiers and civilians and even Corporal Adolf Hitler, lying wounded in a military hospital, the events and the emotions are given a human side rather than the stark words on the pages of history books or in the mouths of modern dispassionate commentators.
While the guns were silenced on November 11, 1918, the talking continued for seven months until the Treaty of Versailles was finally signed on June 28, 1919 and the reader learns not only of the changes that were made to the world itself but also the conditions that meant that a second world war was inevitable.
With endpapers that show the political changes that occurred in Europe between 1914 and 1925, thumbnail sketches of those whose voices have been quoted and comprehensive teachers’ notes available this is a remarkable book that will help our students understand the significance of the time and its centenary. It is a must-have in any collection relating to World War I.
One hundred years ago and Australian soldiers are fighting in the waterlogged, mud-filled, rat-infested trenches of the Western Front and almost as great an issue as the enemy’s bullets is trench foot where the feet literally rot from being constantly cold and wet. So the call goes out for 150 000 pairs of socks and the women and girls left back home start knitting.
Click clack click clack click clack – no matter where you went, needles were working and socks were rolling off them – long woolen ones that went up to the knees for added protection and silk knitted into the heels to make them extra strong.
Tammy’s father is one of those away fighting and her mother one of those at home knitting. Day and night, whenever her hands aren’t doing something else, they are knitting. Tammy’s job is to wash the socks before they are sent away and into each of the ten pairs her mummy knits, she places a special message to her daddy.
Dear Daddy, Bless your poor feet. Every stitch is made with love to help bring you safely home. From Tammy.
Then the socks are wrapped in special paper and taken to join all the other pairs about to be shipped.
Will her daddy get a pair of socks knitted by Mummy with their special message?
Based on a true exchange between Lance Corporal A. McDougall and a young girl, Message in a Sock is another touching and intriguing story that helps put a human face on World War I making it easier for young children to understand this nation-shaping conflict and why the commemoration of its centenary is so important. Told by Tammy herself, young girls can put themselves in her place and imagine what it would be like to have their father in mortal danger each day, far away in an unimaginable place and how even something as seemingly insignificant as putting a message in a sock can have such an enormous impact. The tiniest stone thrown into a small pond can still make a ripple that spreads ever outwards.
With its muted colours but detailed pictures that contain so much interest, this is another unique story from a time long ago that like the impact of Tammy’s message in a sock, has the ripple effect of impacting understanding and perhaps lives. An essential in your ANZAC Day collection.
Left! Left! Left! Right! Left! We make our way in the dark.
On the one hand feet make their way to a commemorative service; on the other soldiers’ boots take them to the battlefront.
As ANZAC Day approaches and the centenary commemorations of World War I continue, this book reminds us that Australians have been involved in wars since before we were even officially called Australia and that our presence is known and respected in wartorn countries even today.
Each double-page spread with its simple text and evocative illustrations juxtaposes the people at the commemorative ceremonies with soldiers in conflict throughout our history. From the title page where the family hurries out the door into darkness through to the endpapers with the iconic poppies that we associate with remembrance in this country the reader is taken on a journey through our military history in such a sensitive way.
As the Dawn Service moves through prayers, the raising of the flags, the lighting of candles, the placement of wreaths and poppies, silences and the familiar bugle call of The Last Post and Reveille so too we move through time – The Boer War, World Wars I and II. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Bosnia & Herzegovina, East Timor, Afghanistan – whether as combat troops or peacekeepers, Australians have had a role committing hundreds of thousands of men and women, each of whom deserves our respect and gratitude. While each page just has one factual statement of what is happening, the illustrations bring a depth and dimension that inspire emotion and memories as the two marry together perfectly. From the sprig of rosemary somehow surviving the stomp of boots on the first page to the ghost-like images marching with the people on the last, there is a sense that this is an enduring commitment by military and civilian personnel alike. One could not stand without the other.
Thumbnail sketches of each conflict are provided at the end of the book and teachers notes’ are also available for those who want to use this as the first step in a deeper investigation for both History and English. It may even inspire some students to investigate the role that their family has had in the Services and given our multicultural population there may be students who have personal experiences to share that might give a unique insight that can’t be gleaned from picture books, no matter how stunning they are.
Something a little different to share this ANZAC Day, not only to remember the huge contribution that has been made but also to acknowledge those who have served and continue to serve so that those students who have had or still have family in the military forces understand that they are included in the thoughts and prayers. The services are not just for the sacrifices made long ago on faraway battlefields by generations unknown, but for everyone who has served in the short 120 years of our united history.
We hear the sweet songs of morning. And we remember them.
A century ago. Young Australian men were volunteering to got and join the forces fighting in World War I, seeing it as the greatest adventure of their lives and a way to escape the humdrum and hard times of home. When James left, Annie stitched the name ‘Digger” on her favourite patchwork toy kangaroo and gave it to him as his farewell present.
“A Digger for a digger”, she said.
Off went James and Digger together, across endless, tireless seas and vast starry night skies to the battlefields and trenches of France. And when the order came to advance, Digger was in James’s pocket. He was there too, when James was evacuated to a French farmhouse to recover from his injuries, and Digger was mended too, this time by Colette who carefully replaced all his broken stitches. And he was still there when James was well enough to return to his unit. He is even there when the worst happens…
Inspired by and written as a tribute to the French schoolchildren who once tended the graves of Australian soldiers who died on the Western Front in the heroic battle for Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, this is a touching story gently told and illustrated that brings the human side of war to life as well as commemorating the connections made that still live on.
As the final centennial commemorations of this terrible time draw to a close, this is a special book to share as it demonstrates how the thinnest threads can connect us through the toughest time, and love and harmony and safe haven can grow from the smallest things.
March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia. Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.
Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this. Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”
Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of the beach…
What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did? Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?
Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place. Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key. Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.
Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!
The banner across the top of the cover of this book says, “The iconic song about the Vietnam War that helped change a nation” and indeed, anyone who has heard the original with the haunting voice of John Schuman as the lead singer of Redgum will find that echoing in their head as they “read” this picture book version of the song that brought the realities of the war to a generation. If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s available on You Tube
While, for the first time in history, war was brought into the family living room through the immediacy of television news programs, it was the personalising of what was happening through the lyrics of this song that not only provided a real insight but which has also endured. In fact, along with the picture of the little girl running naked from her village after it had been destroyed with napalm bombs it would be one of the most-recalled memories of that time. Its refrain and final line, “God help me, I was only nineteen” encapsulates it all. Both the words and the sensitive, evocative images of Craig Smith show that war is the antithesis of the great adventure that these soldiers’ ancestors thought that it would be as they hastened to answer the call of 1914 and which will be in our thoughts as we move towards the commemoration of ANZAC Day.
But this is much more than another picture book about Australia’s war effort to support the national history curriculum.
As one of those who was very much involved in the events of the time and worked towards the big-picture objectives of not only having Australia and New Zealand troops out of Vietnam because we were against the “all-the-way-with-LBJ” policies of the prevailing governments but also against sending young men to war who, in their own country could not vote or legally have a beer, we did not consider or understand the effects our actions would have on those young men when they eventually came home, mentally and physically wounded, and to have served in Vietnam was a secret and a shame. There were no parades or celebrations – you might talk about it with your mates to keep you sane but that was all. There was no respect from the public and each soldier was somehow held personally responsible for the events which we saw each night. (If you, as an adult, want a greater understanding, read Well Done, Those Menby Barry Heard and Smoky Joe’s Caféby Bryce Courtenay.)
And so we have the situation today that many of our students have grandparents who are perhaps not as they should be and cannot explain why. They saw and did things that no 19-year-olds should ever have to and it is their experiences, their illnesses, their PTSD, their suicides that have changed the way we now view our serving forces and how they are treated and supported when they come home. The picture books and television shows always stereotype Grandpa as being loving and jovial and every child deserves such a person – the production of this book might help them understand why theirs is not. It has an important role to play in helping our little ones understand.
If just the lyrics or the clip of the original “I was Only 19” were the only ones used in a study of the Vietnam War, the story would not be complete. It is through Craig Smith’s final illustrations of the young soldier now a grandfather with his grandson ducking from a chopper, then sharing an ice cream and finally marching on ANZAC Day together that are critical because they show that while he is still troubled by his experiences, he has survived and 40 years on society has moved on to a new and different attitude. For that we have to thank the continued and sustained efforts of all those Vietnam Vets who would not let us forget. We salute you now as we should have then.
For those who see this as a teaching opportunity, there are teachers’ notes are available.
Republished in honour of the 50th anniversary of The Battle of Long Tan. August 18, 1966