Just in time for Remembrance Day, my family is incredibly excited about the publication of journalist, Peter Rees,' latest book, Desert Boys.
Using letters, diaries, interviews and unpublished memoirs, Desert Boys tells the intensely personal and gripping story of two generations of Australian soldiers, providing us with a unique insight into their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
One of the stories Peter Rees explores in depth throughout Desert Boys is that of my grandfather, Sloan Bolton. Have a read of the beginning of the book here:
The armed guard thrust a bayonet at the two men outside the Geelong drill hall. The men backed off. But they wanted to enlist, so they approached again, and explained why they wanted to join the army. This time the sentry jerked his rifle and waved them through. Sloan Bolton and one of his mates were on their way to the Great War. Sloan had been nicknamed 'Scotty' by mates who mistook his northern Irish accent for a Scottish one. He didn't object. It was early spring, 1914, He was between jobs chaff cutting and had pulled into Geelong for a week's break before heading back to the farms to work. As Scotty walked the city's streets, he couldn't help but notice the many men wearing the khaki uniform of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He began to think about going to the war that had been declared just a month earlier...And so Alea iacta est - the die is cast.
The situation we read about in this very first paragraph would change the future for my grandfather forever. He would return home from that war both as a hero and an invalid. He would be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the army's second ranking award for gallantry, but he would also spend nearly two years in Caulfield Military Hospital learning how to walk again on not one, but two, artificial limbs after receiving a direct hit from a military shell only a few weeks before armistice was declared. He would live to become a husband and a father and a champion cattle breeder, but he would also die at 53 years of age. I would never know him.
War would never be as exciting in reality at Sloan expected it to be that day in Geelong with his mate, Jack. It never is.
And so today on the 11/11/11 we remember. We're excited about Desert Boys because to us Grandpa Sloan 'Scotty' Bolton was a real hero, and we need to remember him and the other boys in this book. We remember them, though, not to glorify war, but to honour the young men and women who served and who fought to defend our freedom. We remember, and we give thanks to God for their lives and their bravery.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget