I’m pretty proud to be a member of a distinguished group. I was in a discussion with a 22 year old the other day during which I said, “I personally remember an ANZAC.” I was genuinely surprised they didn’t know one themself which made me realise that I’m part of the last generation who had the opportunity to sit down with and chat to an actual ANZAC. I read this article from the Telegraph which reminded me how much I miss my Grandparents and I write this in honour of them.
What is ANZAC?
ANZAC is the acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It’s recognition of an alliance formed when troupes landed on Gallipoli in April 1915. After the Gallipoli landing General Birdwood recommended the name ‘ANZAC’ to acknowledge the sacrifice of Australian and New Zealand forces as well as acknowledgement of the landing, and the location has henceforth been recognised as Anzac Cove – “a name of which the bravery of our men and women has been made historical, while it remains a geographical landmark for all time.” (awm.gov.au; https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/anzac/acronym).
Anzac was initially the term used for an individual who fought in Gallipoli. It was later used for any Australian or New Zealand soldier who fought side by side. It commenced in the First World War (28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918). In the Second World War (1 September 1939-2 Sepember 1945), a new ANZAC formed when Australia and New Zealand joined forces again the next time in Korea. During the ‘Vietnam War’ two NZ infantries attached to the 4th and 6th Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment for deployment to defend our nations.
More than 600 Australians were killed in a significant battle fought by Australians in our back yard that is now known as the ‘Battle of Kokoda.’ A Japanese invasion contingent landed in north Papua in July 1942 and ANZACs defended the soil in unimaginable conditions for 4 months. The Japanese objective was to capture Port Moresby, an Australian base, in an effort to overcome Australia.
The Owen Stanley Range is made of rugged mountains and jungle pathways and this is the direction the offending army tried to travel upon to reach their objective. The battle of Kokoda took 4 months and the ANZACs fought back with everything they had. Many sacrificed their lives in defense and I am very proud that I am part of the result of that extraordinary contribution. I am proudly a Papuan raised in Australia.
I’ve sat with both of my Grandfathers through my life who were present during that war. Neither talked about it but I always knew it was part of their life experience and it henceforth became part of my experience too given my upbringing that I now hope to share this with my younger siblings who had rare glimpse (and some memories) of both extraordinary men.
When the movie about Kokoda was released, I tried to watch it but the singsong in the opening of the movie broke my heart so much I couldn’t proceed. To this day I’ve never watched the movie. Ironically, I married a beautiful man who is descendant of one of those brought in to fight to win Kokoda. I remember the moment with Grandpa Newton at a Kingaroy winery at which time I divulged my knowledge of my family and he shook my hand, hugged me, and ordered us another drink. I’ve heard tales of his involvement since.
I owe my life to ANZACs
One of the earliest memories of my childhood is my Grandad and Grandma from Rockhampton coming to visit us in Moresby. I have so many memories of that time it’s ridiculous given how young I was. A very clear memory I have, despite my young age, is our family trip back to the Moresby end of Kokoda known as Bomana.
Bomana is 19km north of Port Moresby with more than 3,100 graves. More than 700 of those remain unidentified today. Papua New Guinea has 3 war cemeteries dedicated to the amazing people who fought in the world war. The main is Bomana near Port Moresby, Bita Paka (near Rabaul) and the Lae War Cemetery, all being locations of our fallen ANZACs.
Why do we need to take a day to celebrate ANZACs?
The ANZACs gave more than today’s generation will ever know. They put their lives on the line to defend their country and families. I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the ANZACs. Both of my Granfathers left their family for a goal of greater good. I am the product of extraordinary Grandparents.
Half were Australian and the other half were PNG. My Aussie father married my PNG mother and then had me. This would not have happened if it wasn’t for the amazingness that is the ANZACs.
I also remember that day at Bomana with Grandad Cochrane and the tears he shed as he walked around the cemetery and recognised the name of one among the thousands of tombstones. To this day I remember his tears of mourning and it’s that moment I remember every time ANZAC Day comes around on April 25.
When I was growing up Grandad Cochrane had a helmet in
his home from his battle at Kokoda. Apparently it had a bullet hole in it but he never shared this with us grandkids but apparently he kept it hidden under the bathroom sink. To this day I’ve never seen it but my family has told me about it and I don’t think I’d be able to hold it together if we were ever to cross paths.
The last time I saw my Bubu Vagi, he told me about his time in Brisbane when the ANZACs brought a PNG contingent to Brisbane train for the war – but he never shared anything more beyond that. He told me this when my mother brought him to the Gold Coast to spend time with us. I never knew he’d been to Australia but he lamented in a moment of reflection about his time in Brisbane as we were travelling through during a family day trip.
Both men were amazing and I’m so very, very proud to be their Granddaughter. I would not be here if it wasn’t for their, and the ANZAC’s, sacrifice. This is why I’m very, very proud to be part of the last generation who can say, “I knew an ANZAC and he was my Grandad!” I’m also more lucky that I get to say I am an Australian-PNG descendant who is very proudly a product of this extraordinary moment in history.
In 1995, I had the honour of representing my Grandad and Bubu when I was awarded the honour of Ambassador for Townsville’s VP50 celebration. Time on Maggie Island with my family from Pari will stay with me always. Celebrating the sacrifice Grandad and Bubu took to their grave (post war) will stay with me forever and I miss them both so much.