Saturday, April 23, 2016

OH! WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN...




Villers-Bretonneux

A. B. Facey

No doubt everyone in Australia and our good neighbor, New Zealand is aware, or should be, ANZAC Day, 25th April falls on Monday. This, of course, means this weekend is a long weekend. 

Let’s not forget the important reason for it being a long weekend.  ANZAC Day.

A favourite book of mine is A.B. Facey’s “A Fortunate Life”.  It’s not what one would call a “big” book, but it is a big story of a simple, good man’s life; a life filled with a wealth of experiences; a life that wasn’t always easy.  The autobiography was published in 1981, nine months before Albert Facey’s death at the age of 88. 

Born in Victoria, at the age of five years, after the death of his father, Albert (Bert) Facey, along with three of his older siblings, was sent to Western Australia where the brothers were raised in the care of their grandmother.

Facey began working when he was eight. With little education he could neither read nor write. By the age of 14 he was an experienced bushman. Aged 18, he was a professional boxer.

 In August 1914, when Albert was nearly 20 years old news came through Britain was at war with Germany. Facey was in New South Wales at the time with his boxing troupe. The air was rife with talk Australia was sending a force of 20,000 troops to aid the British. Knowing he was fit, and lured by the thought of travelling overseas, Facey, like thousands of other young men, decided to volunteer.  He travelled back to his home state of Western Australia to enlist.

In early February, 1915, along with his battalion, on board the troopship “Itonus” Facey headed for the Middle East.  One of his older brothers, Joseph had set sail five days earlier. Roy, another brother had also enlisted.

Bert Facey lost a lot of his mates and had witnessed many men perish.

On 28th June, 1915 Roy was blown apart in an explosion. When Roy was killed Bert went through the harrowing experience of helping bury his brother, side by side in a grave with fifteen of his mates; something none of us could ever imagine having to do; should never have to do. The clearing where the bodies were interred was named “Shell Green”.

A.B. Facey was badly injured at Gallipoli on 19th August, 1915, when a shell, lobbed into the parapet of his trench, exploded. His mate was killed. 

Facey suffered internal injuries and a crushed right leg. A bullet also struck him in the shoulder.  He’d been at Gallipoli six days short of four months. 

During his recuperation in a converted sports arena in Cairo the Aussies called “Luna Park” Facey turned 21.  He told no one. It wasn’t a time for celebration. 

While convalescing he was told his brother Joseph had been killed. Joseph was bayoneted while on guard duty at an outpost.

In November 1915, Bert arrived in Fremantle. He returned to hospital. His injuries caused him severe problems for the rest of his life. He was discharged from the Army in June, 1916.  During his rehabilitation in Perth Bert met his future wife. After marrying in 1916 they had seven children, the eldest of whom was killed in the Second World War. Bert and his wife had 28 grandchildren. 

One Sunday afternoon in 1989 a couple of friends and I visited the Mountain View Hotel at Gordonvale, south of Cairns; a wonderful old country pub.  My interest was alerted when I learned the groundsman/barman’s surname was “Facey”. He and I had a lengthy conversation. A. B. Facey had been his great-uncle.

I’ve always been grateful I asked the question of the fellow…”You might think this a silly question, but are you related to A.B. Facey, the author of “A Fortunate Life?”


The war ended for Bert Facey when he was injured in 1915. He had no other choice but to return to Australia to be rehabilitated; but sadly, the war didn’t end at Gallipoli.  The “war to end all wars” dragged on and on.

Australia’s 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions having withdrawn from the horrors of Gallipoli were sent to the French countryside…at the Western Front to help the French who were suffering badly. If they thought the eight months of the horrific battle at Gallipoli were bad, worse lay ahead with the Battle of Fromelles and the Battle of Pozieres during 1916.

In one night alone there were more than 5500 Australian casualties. In six weeks of battle around Pozieres the casualty count was equivalent to hellish eight months of Gallipoli.

1917 arrived. The Australians were again heavily engaged: at Bapaume; at Bullecourt and Messines and in the latter part of the year, in the Ypres offensive – Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and Passchendaele.

In 1918 the Aussies and the Brits reclaimed Villers-Bretonneux from the Germans. The fighting that commenced in 1914 finally ended in November, 1918.

 Few of the original ANZACS of 1915 remained. Australia and New Zealand lost far too many of their young men.  And, a great number returned home bearing injuries, both physical and mental; injuries and disturbing, unimaginable images that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.  Ghosts of the conflicts tormented…..

Sadly, wars have continued – they didn’t end with the “Great War”.  We look back on history, and too often we discover humans haven’t learned a thing.....

LEST WE FORGET….



40 comments:

  1. ANZAC Day is indeed a solemn day. I think it probably brings us together as a nation more than Australia Day. Thank you for writing this Lee.

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    1. I agree, Carol; it is a most solemn day. ANZAC Day is the day of the year I revere and respect most of all. I know many tears will fill my eyes, often, tomorrow.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. I'll have to see if I can find A Fortunate Life here.

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    1. G'Day, Cranky...it is a wonderful story; sad, yet uplifting...a simple man who experienced much during his life.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. "Born in Victoria, at the age of five years.." (*~*)that made me giggle.

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    1. Hi there River....you will note, if you look closely enough, there is a comma after "Victoria".


      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. I did notice and knew what you meant, but taking it out of context makes it funny.

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    3. I guess so...but ANZAC Day, for me is a very sad time - it always puts me in a very solemn mood; but that's just me...how I am. No reflection on you, River.

      Even writing my post made me misty-eyed...and from the Dawn Service tomorrow morning, through to watching the Anzac Parade on ABC TV, through to the Gallipoli Dawn Service and the Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux - that will be the majority of my day; and the majority of that time my tears won't be far away. That is how I devote my time every ANZAC Day.

      As I said...that's just me. I'm not a religious person, but to me ANZAC Day is the day I revere most in any given year.

      And I'm sulking tonight...because there's no "The Blacklist"!!! :(

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  4. Never I suspect. Not while there is money in it.

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    1. Ahoy, there Dear Cosmo...long time no see. 'Tis always a pleasant to have you pay a visit.

      As long as hate, greed, prejudice, ridicule, ignorance etc., are rife....I agree...never; and most definitely never in my lifetime.

      Thanks for coming by. Take care. :)

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  5. A timely, heartfelt post ahead of ANZAC Day. I wish we had a public holiday like that in Great Britain - instead of what we call "bank holidays". Who cares about banks? We should be honouring our brave dead - the boys who never came home - just as Americans do on Memorial Day.

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    1. I agree, Yorkie.

      ANZAC Day has always meant a lot to me...from when I was a child.

      My late brother Gtaham and I always made a wreath with the chrysanthemums from our garden and we'd place it on the Memorial Gates at Gympie every ANZAC Day morning. Nana and Mum always took us along to the service which was held at the Memorial Gates...every year without fail.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. I just finished watching last week, ANZAC Girls. Several episodes and it really enlightened me in many ways, the 'things' the ANZAC'S had to put up with was only the beginning.
    Great post.

    The red poppy is for the blood that was shed
    The black for those that didn't come home
    The green leaves to be placed at 11 past 11am.
    (I think that's how it goes )

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    1. Hello Margaret, It's impossible to imagine what they went through, isn't it?

      In my post I didn't go into detail about the death of Roy Facey who was killed in an explosion...before Bert buried his brother, he, Bert, had to search - to find pieces of his brother's blown apart body. I can't find - I don't have the words to describe what that would be like....

      Thank you, Margaret for coming by.

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  7. Yes, when indeed? That does sound an interesting book, Lee.

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    1. G'Day Pat....where evil exists, good men go to war...

      You, too, would like the book, I'm sure, Pat.

      Thanks for coming by.

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  8. If the leaders had to go to war with their families, and the people stayed home, there would be no wars.

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    1. Perhaps, Arleen...perhaps...who knows...

      Thanks for coming by.

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  9. There is no end of stupidity being driven by ego. As long as it's "someone else" getting killed, these boys are nothing more than pins on a map to the powers that be.

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    1. Hi LJ....my heart is sad; my whole being weeps...

      Thanks for coming by.

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  10. ANZAC Day is the most special day of the year to me. So sad. On this day I always feel immense sadness. I cried buckets at the dawn service this morning, like I do every year. My daughter's partner is in the army so it holds even more importance to us this year. Lest we forget.

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    1. Me, too, Pauline...and I still am. I'm in a very bleak, blue mood today....I'm the same every year on this most special day.

      Thanks for coming by.

















































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    2. And thank your daughter's partner for me, Pauline. He deserves our praise.

      I'm currently watching the Brisbane parade; and then I'll be watching the Gallipoli Dauwn Service, followed by Villers-Bretonneux.

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  11. Hopefully we will never forget those who have served.

    Have a great week.

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    1. It is guaranteed I never will, Gail. They all deserve our respect and must always be remembered and thanked.

      Thanks for coming by...I hope your week treats you kindly. :)

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  12. It bothers me when people think Memorial Day (our version, in May) is all about a three-day weekend and white sales.

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    1. G'Day RK....There are some, unfortunately, who think only of themselves; they're the centre of their worlds and have no understanding the sacrifices made by others so they can enjoy the freedoms of life that they do. They're blind, thoughtless and ignorant.

      This is a very sad day...it is always is for me...it is one I revere the most.

      Thanks for coming by.

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  13. The older I get the more I despair about the human race learning anything. I was watching a TV programme about the unbelievable mess that has been made in Afghanistan by foreign intervention for years, and the short sighted meddling that is still going on. Aargh! But thank you for reminding me of Anzac day. Of course it is not celebrated as much here as in your part of the world, but it should still be remembered.

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    1. Hello Jenny...the older I get the more I despair, too...the way humans behave upsets me more and more. Lessons are never learned; hate and violence continues.

      I spent the majority of yesterday feeling very sad; depressed and teary. ANZAC Day is a very important date of on our Aussie calendar and on the New Zealand calendar. We must always honour those who have sacrificed so much;and those who still do.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  14. So sad. Why can't we figure out how to get along without killing and maiming each other?

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    1. I wish I had the answer to that question, Sandra...I wish I had the remedy.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  15. SO sick of war....
    hughugs

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    1. Me, too, Donna....I'm sick of violence everywhere in its every form.

      Thanks for your visit. :)

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  16. You have given the day the gravity it deserves by this post.

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    1. Hi Lynn...It's a day I never take or treat lightly. ANZAC Day is the one day of the year I revere and respect most of all.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  17. Human nature never changes.
    Bert sounds a typical ANZAC!
    My dad always spoke highly of the Aussies.

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    1. G'Day Adullamite...sady, no...human nature never changes; never learns.

      The Aussie Diggers were and still are a rare breed; and I'm so very, very proud of our men and women of the Forces, past and present.

      Thank your for your comment. :)

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  18. Have a great one, Lee:)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sandra. :)

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