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The battles don’t end when the guns stop firing: three forgotten stories to mark Anzac Day

On the eve of Anzac Day, Bruce Scates of Monash University writes from Gallipoli, where he is attending tomorrow’s centenary commemorations. He looks beyond the usual narrative of “Anzac Spirit,” to tell the forgotten stories of three Australian soldiers, who were deeply affected by their experiences in the Great War.

The Anzac memorial in Gallipoli, Turkey

As dawn breaks on 25 April, Australia and New Zealand will observe the Centenary of Anzac Day. The old stories will be told again: narratives of nation building; tales of heroism and hardship; and an emphasis on stoicism and achievement in the midst of overwhelming loss.

The “Anzac Spirit” is writ large in the way we remember the day of the landing and the gruelling campaign that followed. But who do we forget when we remember the Great War?

 

Frank Wilkinson: a victim of shattered nerves

Gunner Frank Wilkinson might well have been a war hero. He enlisted in Victoria, served in France and Belgium, and was awarded the Military Medal during the push on Passchendaele.

Frank survived the war, but not the peace. He took up marginal land and failed as a soldier settler.

Ten years after the fighting had ended, he battered his wife to death with a hammer, smashed the skull of his daughter to pieces, and then slit his own throat.

The papers called Wilkinson “a victim of shattered nerves.”  Today, we would use the more dignified title of post-traumatic stress.

 

Harold Candy: suicidal on the eve of his wedding

Few will remember Harold Candy on the Anzac Centenary. He is another of the countless soldier suicides that came in the wake of war.

Harold enlisted in South Australia, was wounded in action in Poziers, wounded again at Hamel and then gassed.

Harold’s health was ruined by the war, but he also contracted venereal disease. On the eve of his wedding, he hanged himself from a tree in the Adelaide parklands.

 

Hugo Throssell: one of 6 million “permanent wrecks”

The story of Hugo Throssell is perhaps a little more familiar. As the first-born son of a west Australian premier and a Victoria Cross-winner at the Battle of Hill 60, he has at least some claim to fame.

But how many know that a shard of bomb fragment was still lodged in his brain 18 years after Gallipoli? Or that he shot himself in the head with his service revolver in 1933? Few have read his speech to the Victory Parade in Northam:

“I have seen enough of the horrors of war and want peace… War has made me a pacifist and a socialist.”

Throssell believed that of the 18 million men wounded in the Great War, over 6 million were “permanent wrecks.” They formed a great legion of gassed, crippled and insane. Decades after the Armistice men and women continued to die of war related injuries.

 

Remembering the inglorious dead

We wrote “The Glorious Dead” on our memorials, forgetting all those inglorious deaths to follow.

The message of these few cases is very clear and one we do well to remember on the Centenary of Anzac Day. The battles don’t end when the guns stop firing. Decades into the peace, veterans – and the families and communities they belonged to – continue to pay the price of war.

These three stories are taken from Bruce Scates’s free online course, “World War 1: a History in 100 Stories,” which retrieves the forgotten voices of 1914-18. You can join the course now, for a new perspective on the war that changed Australia and the world.

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Comments (77)

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  • Jenny Traveller

    We should never be allowed to forget!

  • Carol Jones

    Having read these stories. It can only make you think how grateful we should be for what we have now. The forgotten stories, are the ones we need to learn more about. It certainly gave me time to reflect on how heartbreaking and destructive war can be.

  • Doris Lewin

    I feel that the title of the article written for the Future Learn blog is exactly what you feel while reading the sories. And it is a wonderful title because when wars finished, people who have not gone to the war can not see a lot of people wounded , hurted and with marks in their hearts and brains.
    I am a Colombian (South America)oman , I have not being in a war but now in my country we are trying to sign the peace between Government and civil society with an ilegal group that have been fighting against the Nation for more than 52 years . The people involved in this war ,the victims ,suffer because they must go from their homes and they feel abandoned , hurted, injured and they have mental problems because they have been stealed
    and in many cases their families have been killed .

  • Gail O'Sullivan

    Powerful stories, and good that we can now look at remembering these people. I worked in the area of grief and loss and trauma, but this was not seen as a need in those times. I am always glad I did not live through a war and that I live in a neutral country. What about the mothers of all these lads too? It is immeasurable the trauma everyone suffered.

  • Zeinab hesham

    I would like to know the cost of the IELTS test itself after having The course finished

    • Helen

      Hi Zeinab, The IELTS course on FutureLearn is designed to help prepare you for the IELTS exam. More information on IELTS, including how much it costs, where to take it, and what it can help you with, can be found here: http://www.ielts.org/

  • Vincent Reidy

    The ones who were killed in action may have been the lucky ones.

  • Fiona McArthur

    I was in tears having worked with men that fought in the second world war and how it changed them I could relate to these stories so sad

  • Nicky

    Very telling stories. (Video for first is missing). I am reading ‘The Narrow Road to the North’ about the building of the Burma Railway in WW2 and the stories of the POWs and Japanese. Both these stories and the book bring home the devastation war brings to lives.

    • Gail O'Sullivan

      Yes a great book and yet only a glimpse at the horrors, but also highlights the resilience of men

  • Graham

    Two very moving stories which unfortunately are being repeated today with veterans from World War 2, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, just to name a few of the world conflicts where men and women fight for us to enjoy the life style that we have become accustomed too. Lest We Forget.

    • Gail O'Sullivan

      True…when will we ever learn?

    • Gail O'Sullivan

      True…when will we ever learn?

  • mr.hanni

    Very good to remember our memory, because sometime bad manner is most to easily remembering. I have got a lot of vocabulary and many thinking skill and realize the life of soilders.