Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels

Having recently posted a gallery of my father's photos on my Flickr gallery, and tomorrow being Anzac day here in Australia, I suppose it's natural to have connected the two in my thoughts.

He served in New Guinea in World War Two, and in common with many of his vintage who served in theatres of war, never shared any of the details with us, either when we were children or even when we pressed him about it much later. Whether this was because of being sworn to secrecy because of the importance of the work he was doing as we all imagined it to be when we were small, because he had expunged the things he had experienced from his memory, or because there genuinely was little to say about those years, we shall never know.

From the little we gleaned, we do know that it can't have been fun. We also know that there was no such thing as post-traumatic stress syndrome then, that real men didn't show weakness or unnecessary emotion, nor for that matter would they own up to having a dose of that sort of thing if indeed it had existed.

As a meteorological observer at an apparently particularly unpleasant place called Shaggy Ridge we know that he didn't much like having his weather balloons shot out of his hands at the time of release. He did joke once that he didn't see any action, because he was too busy keeping his head down.

I went to an Anzac Day dawn service with him once when I was five.

He gave me his medals some time after that, although I thought nothing of it at the time, and we played with them until they were all lost on a vastly different ground to the one on which they had been earned. Fifty years later we could easily draw a own conclusion about his motivation for doing that, but it is pointless to surmise, and in all probability we'd be wrong.

Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he didn't smoke.

Everyone seemed to smoke in the 50's so his abstinence was unusual enough for me even as a small child to notice and to ask why he didn't. He told me he used to smoke a pipe, but during the War in New Guinea a Fuzzy Wuzzystole his pipe and he never got a new one.

Each ANZAC Day I am torn between the remembrance of those who have fallen in all wars, and trying to ignore the celebration as he did, but the day can't pass without me giving at least some thought to the mysterious Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel that stole his pipe and imagining that if he's still alive, somewhere under a shady tree in New Guinea he's taking a few thoughtful puffs, and wondering what became of the bloke who gave up smoking on his account.



freefalling said...

My grandfather also served in New Guinea during WWII (and in the Middle East). He took lots of photos too.
Coincidentally, my uncle (his son) is currently working on T.I.

ANZAC day is an unusual day.
We are all wrapped in our own memories - I guess that's what a day of remembrance is.

Anonymous said...

As I read your post, i'm lost in my own reflections of my grandfathers and what they experienced during WWII. I too, will never really know what they went thru and i'm scared to imagine, as one of them spent time as a prisoner of war. And the biggest mystery of all (typed with a smile) is what became of their medals ? Are they too in a backyard sandpit somewhere ??

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