Friday, 24 January 2014

Patsy Adam Smith's legacy

'Every man ... a part of the whole.'

(Patsy Adam Smith, The Anzacs)

How I admire Patsy Adam Smith's The Anzacs. Without her so many stories would have been lost. Because of her we have photos, diaries, letters, but most of all we hear again the voices of the generation of young (and old, as I discovered) men who, for whatever reason, joined the AIF, travelled far from home to fight a war not of their country's making and returned (if they returned) changed men.

Adam Smith's material comes from a time, as she says, when the men were 'still alive and alert'. That is no longer the case, but part of what I want to do with this blog is to give the volunteers of Coburg a place in the pages of our recorded history, not just as names on lists or on memorials or in newspapers, but as individuals who lived ordinary enough lives before the war, endured extraordinary times over the five years of war and some of whom returned and struggled to make a life during the hopeful 20s and heart-breaking 30s. Some died far too young. Others served their country again in World War Two or sent their sons and daughters off to war. Many lived to old age despite gassing, psychological trauma or severe physical wounds. 

Theirs were remarkable lives, as all lives are. Very soon a companion website to this blog will appear in which all my research will be made available to those who are interested. 

So far, I have completed the basic background research to almost 1500 AIF men (and 1 woman) who had connections to Coburg. Now it is time to 'flesh out' the names on my lists and learn more about their lives before, during and after the war. How did their families cope? What was happening at home? If they returned, did they ever talk about their experiences? What sort of lives did they make for themselves on their return? These are just some of the questions running through my mind.

If you can help me tell the stories of any of the volunteers with Coburg connections, I would love to hear from you. Photos, letters, diaries, family stories, memories of old Diggers you may like to share with others would all be much appreciated. You may even like to join me in doing some of the research. If so, let me know.

As Patsy Adam Smith travelled the battlefields, she said 'I remembered every one of them.' I'll probably never visit the battlefields, but this blog and its companion website are my tribute to the men who fought and the families and communities they left behind. It's my way of remembering them. I hope you'll join me.

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