One minute of silence. It seems so inadequate for all that was sacrificed, but it's all we can do. That is our duty.
One minute of silence. It seems so inadequate for all that was sacrificed, but it's all we can do. That is our duty.

Remembrance Day means more now than ever

FOR one minute on Monday, I will remember my great-grandfather Private Percy Carne, who as a blue-eyed 21 year old shipped off to the First World War.

Who with his three brothers - all stockmen on cattle properties in North Queensland's remote Gulf Country - were enticed by exciting tales of Gallipoli.

Together the four brothers, who had been schooled only to Year 4, left the bush to enlist and were swept off to battlefronts in the bitter winter of Europe.

Jack Carne, the eldest, was killed in the first battle of the Somme in France. The second-eldest Bert was badly wounded in Passchendaele and lay in a shell hole in 'no man's land' for three days before he was found. Edward, the youngest, was shot in Possiers, but survived. Percy, a farrier and decent horseman, joined the Light Horse Regiment - first in the 5th and then the 4th.

For one minute, I will remember my great-grandfather.

Who rode in the last great cavalry charge of modern warfare - the Battle of Beersheba.

Who was ordered to charge or die trying as the Light Horse galloped on Turkish trenches.

Who, laughing with fear, thundered on storming hoofs in clouds of dust into the furnace of shelling and machine gunfire.

"They were an awe-inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonets," Ion Idriess, a fellow trooper in the 5th, wrote in his diary The Desert Column.

For one minute, I will remember my great-grandfather. Picture: iStock
For one minute, I will remember my great-grandfather. Picture: iStock

For one minute, I will remember my great-grandfather.

Who when the brutal and bloody horror of war seemed finally over, was told that the Australian Government would not ship their beloved horses home.

Who refused to leave his loyal horse behind in Egypt, having witnessed so many starved and abused.

Who, along with his fellow Light Horse troopers, walked their beloved animals into the sea and sobbing, shot them.

"The hardest day of my life," he would say. "My horse was part of my body."

For one minute tomorrow, I will remember my great-grandfather.

Who, when the next war came, watched as both his sons left the farm, but only one returned.

Who begged his eldest Roy not to enlist, but when his son threatened to run away, dutifully drove him to Gympie train station.

Who, sitting in his truck as Roy walked away, knew it would be the last time he would see his son.

And who sped to the next station so he could catch one last glimpse of his sweet, blond-haired boy with his same blue eyes sitting at the window of the train.

Flight Sergeant Roy Dempsey Carne, who had just turned 22, was a navigator in the Australian 466 squadron as part of Bomber Command. On the night of the dam busters raid on May 16, 1943, he was sent to drop mines on submarines in Brest Harbour as a distraction - or as his little brother (my grandfather) says, "as bait". His plane never returned.

Private Percy Carne who served in the 5th and 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment in WWI. Picture: supplied
Private Percy Carne who served in the 5th and 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment in WWI. Picture: supplied

For one minute, I will remember my great-grandfather.

Who never once spoke of the death of his son. But who, unbeknown to anyone in his family, pleaded with the RSL to intervene with the RAAF to stop his youngest son (my grandfather) doing active service. My grandfather only found out years later when he saw a note stapled to his file.

For one minute, I will remember my great-grandfather.

Who, along with his fellow Light Horse mates, refused to march on Anzac Day.

Who carried the deep pain of war always inside him, like the piece of shrapnel embedded in his back.

And who, as he lay dying in Gympie Hospital in 1989, cried out to his mates on the frontline.

My family's story is not special. It is the story of so many Australian families.

In WWI, we lost more men per capita than any other country. Entire family lines vanished, country towns lost all their men and a generation was laid to waste in such unquantifiable, unbearable loss.

Now, 100 years on from the first Remembrance Day, we must not let the tradition crumble into distant history.

There may be no more left who served, but the need to remember does not diminish.

Their sacrifice and pain cannot be overshadowed by our modern ignorance and entitlement.

For how we treat our past, reflects how we will handle our future.

One minute of silence. It seems so inadequate for all that was sacrificed, but it's all we can do. That is our duty.

Lucy Carne is editor of Rendezview.com.au.



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