Dad had a brother and several cousins who served and a sister who became a war bride when she married a US Serviceman. In my grandparents home a photo of my Uncle Keith in uniform took pride of place in the entrance hall and on another wall a velvet belt hung encrusted with brass unit badges my grandfather brought back from his time in the middle east and France during World War 1.
I later learnt that another of Dad's cousins, Uncle Wal, had escaped from the Malayan Peninsula as the Japanese invaded. It was the subject of a book by Colin Frisch Heroes Denied. The Malayan Harrier Conspiracy "the amazing true story of 15 Australian soldiers who refused to surrender when the Japanese steamrolled down the Malayan Peninsula early in 1942. They fought their way back to Australia over several months to be met with disdain and disbelief. Unbelievably, they were treated like deserters and given the title 'Malayan Harriers'."
On Mum's side, my Grandmother had 13 immediate members of her family who served. There was Uncle Perc who got captured in Singapore and was a POW in Changi and later on the Burma Railway, Uncle Laurie who was part of the 2/22nd Battalion who was killed on the day the Japanese invaded Rabaul and of course my Grandfather Bill Smith who with the 26th Brigade Headquarters, 9th Division, was a Rat of Tobruk, and if memory serves my correctly this is the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the siege.
On 25th April 2007 I posted the transcript of my Grandfather Bill Joyce's War Diary. Today I'll post letters my other Grandfather Bill Smith's letters to his cousin Dot.
Of course his time as a soldier wasn't the only thing that defined his life and like most men of his generation he didn't talk much of his time away. I do recall a story he told about when he finally did get told that he would be returning from the Middle East and how he went into a tent to tell the cook the good news only to find that he had committed suicide. In reading these letters again I wonder if this was the same bloke who had moaned and groaned and joked about the food with Grandad.