Soldiers’ lot a sorry Sir-vice, says ex-Digger Jim Duffield

Jim Duffield

Jim Duffield

James Brown, in his excellent book Anzac’s long shadow: the cost of our national obsession, makes the observation that “commemorating soldiers is not like connecting with them”, which is a point mostly appreciated by soldiers and service personnel.

Nonetheless, it is more than moot, given that our national broadcaster has no defence and national security correspondent, while it does have numbers of sports correspondents qualified in all sorts of ‘Jock- and Jill-strapping’ disciplines.

This unlike the BBC, which has an experienced foreign correspondent and multi-lingual graduate specifically allocated to defence.

I recall a long and difficult email to-and-fro by veterans to try and get our still breathing battle casualties from Afghanistan reported as wounded and not injured, so is it any wonder the media got it wrong if the Minister’s office was in error and our media is without defence correspondents?

see letter from the office of the Minister for Defence

Now, as we are about to spend some $325 million on a commemorative bunting and bugle-fest of self aggrandisement that is the centenary of Anzac, as highlighted by James Brown, one must ask for what purpose?

We have veterans and service personnel committing suicide at record levels, and with consequences for their families.

Then we are told by our ‘Jock-Strap in Chief’ that our Australian honours and awards are, again, to be pushed down the seniority list in favour of the Sirs and Dames of the Old Dart.

Our Colonial cringe is showing in day-glow orange.

James Browne’s thesis is this week well supported by Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s errant phraseology in his interview with Michelle Grattan, in which he knows not the vernacular for our soldiers.

Worse, he uses the Brits’ term of endearment for their soldiers. Still, it does match the Sirs and the Dames:

“It’s nearly all been good. I suppose, being a fairly traditional person, the contact with the military at every level, from the service chiefs to the squaddies that I’ve been lucky enough to do PT with, has been a special highlight.”

I am more than distressed; I’m pissed off.

I’m Australian and was proud to serve in the Corps of Royal Australian Engineers, but now I am forced to wonder if I was a squaddie and not a Digger?

Perhaps we could ask our new GG if he has his loyal squaddies or Diggers?

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  1. thanks Jim

  2. Hi Jim, well imagine my surprise when I learned that the Government intends to spend $325 million on commemorating WW1, when we as a family can’t even get them to acknowledge our relative’s WW1 service and death. We have a body in unmarked grave in Adelaide, numerous newspaper reports of the day of the funeral, even listing the family members who were in attendance. BUT because he enlisted under his brother’s name, and all the original Attestation papers have been lost we cannot get OAWG to mark his grave. He died prior to embarkation from pneumonia probably contracted at the Morphettville camp, as did others. I, and others, have done a lot of work to try to get this issue resolved to no avail. The modern day equivalent would be having a deceased soldier’s body returned from O/S and then the Defence service finding that they had lost the Attestation papers refuse to accept that the soldier was in fact in the Defence forces, although the death was well reported in the press.

    The irony of it all is that West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, allowed someone to take the lease on the grave containing our relative in 1938, but when that person died his family was obviously unaware that he held that lease and his ashes were scattered in the rose garden of another cemetery. So I am about to place ads in the Adelaide newspapers to see if I can find the surviving family and see if they will transfer the lease to our family. Our only hope is that, if I can find a direct descendant of the lease holder, they will be obliging and we can have the lease transferred and mark the grave ourselves. Failing that the lease has 19 years to run, by which time I’ll be long dead and buried, so I may have to rely on my newly born granddaughter to complete our mission.

    But I’m not deterred, yet, and will continue with our search for recognition for our family member.

  3. Peter Anson says

    Abbott is English by birth and his Australian citizenship only came about as a career move.He’ll always prefer squaddies because he still hasn’t learnt the Australian language…and on current form is unlikely to do so. Any “connection” to soldiers that the PM might make is about his vanity.