He came home early that day, much sooner than expected.
Today was the first time he’d been asked to head his old squadron up George Street, past us looking on from the barricades outside the old GPO, watching the Boss. All the blue uniformed young men of 76 behind him, their WW2 campaign flags aloft. Rabaul, Manus, Noemfoor, Morotai.
He never wore a medal, campaign or otherwise, untrustworthy of the men who issued them, particularly those who criticised the loss of Singapore as a being the fault of the men who died defending it. That was his first posting. 453 Squadron.
He came home early that day. And here’s mother with no lunch prepared, thinking he would eat with his old companions in the hotel where their habit was to meet after the march. The Hotel Australia in Castlereagh Street. Later he told us the bar was so full they had to stand on the crowded footpath and being the oldest surviving Squadron Commander of 76 his was the first shout and his job to fight his way into the bar, through the civilians and soldiers sailors and airmen celebrating their good fortune and toasting those who weren’t with them this year.
He came home early that day.
When the barman was done placing the drinks on the bar-top he watched the old man search for his wallet in his inside coat pocket, then his trouser pockets front and back where he never kept it, then his coat pockets again, inside and out. Then watched as he repeated the exercise. The police phoned us later that afternoon saying they’d found it dumped in a rubbish bin in George Street. This was after we had rung and told them the old man had come home early to tell us his pocket had been picked.
That was his last Anzac Day.
Lest We Forget.