Dad fought with 26 Battalion at Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde Ridge, Passchendaele, then was gassed and sent back to England to recuperate. He returned to Belgium, then France with the Battalion and saw action all through that 1918 spring German offensive, and at Villers-Bretonneux, but came down with trench fever and was away from ‘his boys’ for Hamel and Mont St Quentin. He never forgave himself for that.
He married on his return to Australia and had his first family, his ‘young man’ family. Then 40 odd years later, he married my mum, Daphne, and had my sister and me at 65 and 68. We were his ‘old man’ family. He died when I was a kid. I loved my father but didn’t really know him. So, I went looking for him.
My Father’s Wars is the audio doco-drama that came out of my research into the trench experiences of many young men on the Western Front – Dad left no diaries or letters so I read the diaries and letters home of boys in his sister battalions – and, in this way, have come to understand something of my father’s experiences. And now I see the events of my childhood in quite a different light.
So I wrote a series of short ‘landscapes’/audio ‘plays’ – a blend of researched documentary and drama – pairing up an event from my early childhood with an experience of my dad’s in the War. I think these short pieces speak to all of the Australian families who, like me, tried to understand their men, the men who came back from the Front and never spoke of the most formative event in their lives – the thing that shaped them. The thing that made my father the man he was, that made him furious at incompetence and miscommunication (which cost lives) and deeply, silently loyal (which saved them) …
My Father’s Wars Podcasts are funded by the Queensland ANZAC Centenary Grants program and supported by the State Library of Queensland’s QANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation project. The production of the audio was supported by the Queensland Government’s ANZAC Centenary Grants program. My Father’s Wars was one of only two 2018 AWGIE (radio) finalists nationally.
Subsequent interest in this work from institutions and schools has resulted in an adapted script for a live reading and Q and A.