Di Riddell - Your Voice Matters

Di Riddell

Your Voice Matters - Confidence Beyond 50

Memories of my Uncle Alec on Anzac Day

Today, as usual, we attended the dawn service for Anzac Day. It was especially nostalgic for me this year. Maybe it comes with age, but I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately and my Uncle Alec who I never met has been on my mind. Today I had an experience that touched my soul.

Yesterday I was listening to an item on ABC radio while driving. They were discussing how DNA id being used to identify bones from unknown soldiers in New Guinea from WW11. The bones are breaking down, even crumbling when handled.

Those words got me thinking about Uncle Alec. He went off to war as a young man looking very proud in his uniform. There are only two photos of him after that, taken about 6 months later. He has a very different look.

memories of the Uncle I never got to meet

There are also three hand written letters from him. How precious they are, written in the style of the 40’s and you can sense his larrikin personality, almost hear him talking.

And a few months after that, just ten months after he left home that dreaded telegram arrived announcing that he had been killed at Sanananda on the 7th December 1942. The funeral notice in the paper read…

the newspaper item after Alec’s death

The two things that survive of him today are his war medal and a piano accordion.

Alec’s war medals

The piano accordion has a story of its own. During WW11 a company from Italy chose to support our soldiers and they did that by sending a number of these piano accordions out to our troops to cheer them up. By chance or design Alec ended up with one of them. Maybe he was the only who could play, we will never know. What a wonderful gesture to provide something that through song would bring light and laughter to what must have been horrid conditions.

Alec’s piano accordian

Decades later his brother, my Uncle Andy was at the pub having a drink in a small country town and in walks a guy and says, ‘Are you Andy Howie’

On getting an affirmative answer, he replied, ‘I have something for you’ and produced the accordion in its case complete with Alec’s name and Company. He then went on to share that he had travelled around the countryside extensively for years looking for Andy and at last he found him and could pass on this gift. What an amazing man to search for decades to hand over the accordion for his mate.

Sadly, Andy (he is in heaven now too) was very casual and did not keep the man’s details and the story of who he was, what he and Alec meant to each other and if he knew what actually happened on that fateful day.

So much history, so little recorded yet this morning as I sat and watched the pre-dawn skyline I felt very close to Alec, Andy and my Mum. My feelings ran deep, and I let the tears fall. The dawn service touched me at a whole new level.

Reaching out… to a time when I was not here

War is so senseless, countless lives are lost and I can’t help but question ‘why’.

Anzac Day is the perfect time to reflect, respect and remember those who gave their lives so we could live a life of freedom today.

Maybe when you stop to listen, you too can hear and feel that connection of the spirits as they mingle at a level or dimension that we are yet to understand. We can’t see or touch them, but we know they are there. They are the silver threads that connect us. The American author Sark says, ‘Today we can all choose to spin a little silk and let it grease everything we touch’.