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Dad and the Great War

Updated on August 4, 2014
BlossomSB profile image

Having Celtic ancestry, Bronwen has a love of music and until recently she played her flute in her church Band.

Storms of November
Storms of November | Source

World War I Centenary

Just over one hundred years ago, on 28th July, 1914, the Great War, or the war we now know as World War I, began in Sarajevo.

A week later, on 4th August, Great Britain declared war. That meant that other parts of the British Empire, including Australia, joined in, too.

Memorial Plaque for the Family of Frank Griffin Note: I acquired this at an auction and if there are any of his family who would like it, please contact me.
Memorial Plaque for the Family of Frank Griffin Note: I acquired this at an auction and if there are any of his family who would like it, please contact me. | Source
Dad's New Testament from the Great War
Dad's New Testament from the Great War | Source

The War to End all Wars

The Great War, was supposed to be the war that would end all wars. During the period from 1914 to 1918, lands and European economies were devastated and around twenty million people died.

Twenty-one years later World War II commenced and this time over sixty million people died.

Sadly, 'the war to end all wars' did not achieve it's aim, nor did World War II achieve that aim, and somewhere around the world people continue to be killed in wars and skirmishes every day.

Yet, every Christmas we continue to hear the carol, "Peace on the earth, goodwill to all."

That may not occur until all of us unruly humans make peace with God and then with each other. Now that's something we really need to pray about.

Enlistment Application
Enlistment Application | Source
Proudly in Uniform
Proudly in Uniform | Source

The Older Brothers Enlist

In Australia, my Dad's brothers signed up, but he was the youngest and was needed to help his ageing father carry on the family scale-making trade. He had served his time as an apprentice with his father and now knew the business.

Like the rest of the family, being of Welsh and Scottish descent, he was also musical. He and his sisters sang in St. Mark's, Fitzroy, choir. As a young man, he had been practicing a difficult tenor part in the family music room above the shop when a professor of singing walked by. He went into the shop and demanded to see the owner of the voice, the result was a singing scholarship.

Dad also found himself an evening job, as so many men had gone off to fight. One of the big silent picture theatres in Melbourne now needed an organist and that became Dad. It was very dramatic as the organ rose up from a pit below the screen with Dad playing and making all the sounds he could that were needed for the films. He told me his favourite was the galloping horses. The American organ builders came and trained him in how to care for the instrument.

It had been expected that the war would soon be over and the 'boys' would be back home, but that did not happen. People's fathers and sons were being killed and some were coming home ill and maimed for life. So Dad followed his brothers' example and signed up, much to the consternation of his parents and also the theatre manager. People needed the picture theatres to take their minds off the news of the dreadful things that were happening overseas to their loved ones.


The Gallipoli Campaign lasted from 25th April, 1915 - 9th January, 1916. The Australians suffered many losses, but it is also looked upon as a time when Australia achieved maturity as a nation.

The Anzac Book was sent to my Mother by her cousin Cyril, dated 26th June, 1916, not long after it was published.

The Anzac Book, 1916
The Anzac Book, 1916 | Source

Have Your Say

Do you think that war is ever good?

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Australian Gunners
Australian Gunners | Source

Make Much of Your Horses

As scale-making was precision work, Dad joined the Engineers. In France, he found that, along with others, his job was to care for a 'gun.' I think it was a cannon. He had to keep it in good order.

In the mornings he had to be on duty before some of the others, keeping the canon in good order and caring for the horses and harnessing them up to pull the gun.

At the end of the day when they returned to camp, he had to groom his horses. He said that the last order was:

"Make much of your horses."

I was so impressed with this. How important it is to say 'thank you' when a person does something for you.

The Large and the Small of the Engineers' Band
The Large and the Small of the Engineers' Band | Source

Learning the Language

At one stage, Dad was billeted with a French family. The mother was strict. She allowed her daughters could go out with the soldiers, but they had to be back at a set hour that the 'boys' thought was unreasonable, but they complied.

When I began to learn French, Dad told me that the first French he learned was,

"VouleZ vouZ promenade avec moi ce soir?"

Dad Joins the Band

One of Dad's stories was the following:

The other lads finished first and Dad began to think that, although he loved his horses, there had to be an easier way to fight this war.

He thought about it and decided that the Band would be a good idea.

Which instrument? He was familiar with so many. Something small, he decided.

The result was that he applied to transfer to the Band and play the piccolo.

"Then," he said, "The band marched the boys out, waited for the day's fighting, and then marched them back again. When we returned I just put my piccolo in my pocket and I was free to go out for the evening with a girl on each arm."

Well, he was in the Band, because I have the photo, but from what I've seen of the Great War, the conditions were dreadful.

What is more, if it was so wonderful why did he have nightmares that Mother had to deal with, even many years later?

Dad's Souvenir - turned into a vase!
Dad's Souvenir - turned into a vase! | Source
The Underside of the 'Vase' Dated 1917
The Underside of the 'Vase' Dated 1917 | Source
Roll of Honour, 1918
Roll of Honour, 1918 | Source

The Great War Ends

My Grandparents told me about the jubilant celebrations when the Armistice was announced. The boys came home, no longer boys, but men with memories that were difficult to erase. Well, some of the boys came home. No longer would young folk dance to Paul Jones' Band. Dad's tall elder brother was left behind in France, another brother had been gassed and had to be cared for by his young wife for the rest of his life. In other families their menfolk who returned were wounded and maimed. But we celebrated.

Wishes from all Australian States
Wishes from all Australian States | Source

World War II

Sadly, it was not the 'war to end all wars.' Only twenty-one years later, World War II began. Much to his disappointment, my father had been rejected for this war. He was so upset, he just wanted to have a go at Hitler. I went into the kitchen when he was sitting at the table in tears, but was promptly sent out again and pretended I had not seen such a thing. Mother was trying to console him, but I could tell that she was secretly very glad.

Sapper or Snapper?

Anyway, back at school, with everyone boasting about what their fathers did, I said, "My father was a snapper!" "Not a snapper, stupid, a sapper." "Liar! He told me he had to crawl ahead and snap the barbed wire!" Next minute my Welsh temperament reared up and there were fisticuffs. The result of that was that the school decided that I should learn boxing with the boys. That was most unladylike and something girls never did, but I learned to fight and not lose my temper - quite a lesson!


Memories of World War II

At primary school in Melbourne all the girls had to learn to knit. We produced scarves, balaclavas and socks for the forces,and took pride in our efforts. The boys did other things. One that I know of was that they had to make camouflage nets and that it was very tedious. We were all taught how to spot enemy planes and had to practise lying in a gutter for protection if we happened to be in the street when an enemy came. Trenches were dug at the sides of the playing field under the peppercorn trees and when the siren sounded, we had to grab our packs and gas masks from the back of our seats and jog in an orderly fashion out to the trenches and crouch there until the all-clear. I was always getting into trouble at home for getting mud on my school tunic.

Mother joined a group that made and rolled bandages during the day while Dad was off at work. That was probably rather repetitive and boring, too, but they were proud of their efforts.

Dad joined the ARP and became a Senior Warden. Every house had to have blackout curtains and one of their duties was to patrol the streets and make sure that no light shone out.

As time went on, ration cards were introduced. By the time that I reached Grade 5, I found that if I stood partly on tiptoe I could just make 5 feet, so I qualified for the adult issue.

I remember travelling into the city on the tram (I was allowed to do this at age 10, as I wanted to visit the Museum to study the Egyptian mummies). At one end of the tram there was a poster. It claimed that if every one of the seven million people in Australia gave one pound, that would be seven million pounds towards the war effort. Seven million pounds! I tried to imagine what it would look like, but it was beyond my comprehension.

To save petrol, we moved to the city and Dad built a gas-producer. He attached it to the back of the car. He needed the car for his work, as he was now a Senior Inspector of Weights and Measures and this took him over a wide area of northern Melbourne.

He also spent hours digging out an air-raid shelter in the heavy clay of our back yard. He shored it up with timber, covered the roof with corrugated iron and piled soil on top to make a garden. We thought it was great fun. It had an entrance an an exit and steps down cut into the clay. There was a recess in the side where Mother stored food supplies for times of emergency, but, strangely, they seemed to become depleted fairly frequently and had to be replenished!

Again there were celebrations when this war ended, but it wasn't the 'war to end all wars' either. Wars and rumours of wars seem to continue in so many parts of this lovely earth we've been given to care for. When will we learn?

From The Anzac Book
From The Anzac Book

© 2014 Bronwen Scott-Branagan


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Dolores Monet: Thank you for sharing those memories. They weren't easy times to remember for my father, although the mateship was a precious and enduring thing.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I enjoyed your memories of World Wars 1 and 2. Bad enough your dear father had to endure the first, I was glad to read that he was spared the second. And that you got to keep him home wit you all.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      old albion: Thank you! What lovely comments. Yes, Dad was just an ordinary soldier, but he was very special to us.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Blossom. Well done, an absolutely cracking hub. So well paced and presented. I am sure you are justly proud of your Dad and the family.

      voted up and all.


    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Sunil: Thank you! And thank you for reading and commenting.

      Anne Harrison: It did touch so many families, and even after so many years it continues have an impact on people's lives.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 3 years ago from Australia

      A fascinating hub - WWI touched so many families, and still does today

    • profile image

      Sunil 3 years ago

      Wow, that's a really clever way of thnkiing about it!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      aviannovice: I certainly pray that it will come to an end, but we do wonder how long it will take before love instead of hate reigns on the earth.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      With all the unrest that we have seen, especially in recent times, it appears to me that we're REALLY going to have to make a serious effort in controlling these efforts in violence. It might never end...

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Relationships: Memories are special, even the ones that are not so good as we can learn so much from them. You're so right! I do hope it's sooner rather than later that we learn the importance of love and peace.

    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      It's very interesting that your dad was upset at not being able to go to war the second time. Your memories of the second war are very interesting too. I just came from a place by the ocean that had to have black out curtains as well, and I found it interesting and terrifying at the same time. I hope we all learn that love and peace will do so much more than war sooner than later!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      WillStarr: That is true, and what different lives we would be living today if it was so. We have so much to thank our forebears for. Thank you for your comments.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      This is excellent, Blossom.

      War is never good, but sometimes it's necessary. Otherwise, people like Hitler and Tojo would simply have their way.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Genna East: Thank you so much for your lovely comments and your vote. I hadn't thought about writing more about these events, except in one of my children's books, but in that series I haven't gone further than 'Joan and the Great Depression,' although I'm working on the next one. Mollymeadows' idea of making this hub into an ebook is intriguing. I'm not sure how to go about it, but it sounds a good idea.

      MsDora: So glad you enjoyed reading and thank you so much for your kind comments.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Blossom, you have such a rich family history! The relationships themselves are precious, but being part of your Dad's experience during these years is a one-of-a-kind story. I can see how it empowered you too--learning to fight . . . (smile). Great read!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Blossom…

      I was wondering if anyone planned on writing hub entering on WW I with the 100-year anniversary upon us. I’ve been watching a history program that chronicles what occurred during the Great War, and WWII that followed. But your beautifully written hub tells the story, with dignity and grace, of how these wars affected families on a personal level. I am overwhelmed when I read such accounts of courage and sacrifice that people demonstrated and experienced during these years. “When will we learn?” I fear not any time soon.

      Have you thought of writing more about these events for publication?

      Voted way up and shared.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Wow! Thank you for your wonderfully affirming comments. May God bless you, too.

      Mollymeadows: Now there's an idea - but I don't even know how to do that. It was so interesting reading of your own father's experience and the sad tale of his cousin.

      manatita44: It is sad that we do not learn to love and make peace with each other, but sometimes it seems to be necessary to defend what we see as the right thing and then the only thing we can do is pray.

      DrBill-WmL-Smith: Yes, human nature does not seem to change much. We think we learn from previous events, but we rarely do. Thank you for your comments.

      always exploring: You are so right that war does not seem solve anything, but sometimes to not do anything would result in so many more wrongs being committed.

      Faith Reaper: Bless you for your lovely comments. So sorry to hear about your father's experience - it was so common for so many of the 'boys' who came back. About the boxing, the school I attended at that time was a special practising school for a teachers' college and was very far ahead of it time in many ways. It may have been a strange way to help me, but it worked! Well, mostly!

      MG Singh: Thank you for your comment and may you go safe in your calling.

      travmaj: That must have been a very interesting experience to visit Gallipoli and to see how peaceful it is now. I'm sorry that you never had the chance to meet your great grandfather.

      FlourishAnyway: Thank you - and, Oh, dear! Perhaps I should try to find out how.

      bluebird: I most certainly do agree. I guess there will continue to be wars and rumours of wars until the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of the world as we know it.

      jhamann: Thank you so much, Jamie. That is most kind.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      What a great hub, enjoyable read with incredible illustrations and old photos. Thank you for this hub. Jamie

    • bluebird profile image

      bluebird 3 years ago

      Appreciated this piece and the question at the end. Humanity has a lot to learn about getting along with each other still, I know you'd agree. Today people still say "peace, peace" and there is still no peace. But the end of the story is there in the good book - and in the end through the times of the Gentiles, all who live the hard way will learn the hard way. It's a rule of nature. Whatever it takes to get right with God. That's the goal.

      Thanks again for sharing the pictures and stories of war from a very personal standpoint.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Beautifully told and it would indeed make a great e-book.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Most interesting and informative. My great grandfather lost his life in this war. The Australian connection is really meaningful with the beginning in Gallipoli. I went there many years ago, it was quiet on the peninsula but is usually crowded now with people, young and old, paying respects. War is horrific and we never learn.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

      This is a wonderful account of the great war and as a soldier airman I can greatly appreciate it.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Beautifully written recount of your family's life during the Great War. You tell it so well. My father suffered with PTSD, which is what they called shell-shocked back then, I guess. It is terrible to see and hear such, especially as I child as I did. I loved your story about you boxing! I cannot even imagine you doing such. Thank you for sharing.

      Voted up ++++ and away

      Blessings always

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Indeed, when will we ever learn? This was a great family story. It must have been a terrible time for you as a child. I really never knew the reason for world war 1, of course Japan bombed Pearl Harbor that started the US involvement in world war 2. War is hell and it never solves anything. Thank you for sharing your story with us, you tell it so well...

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I agree with Frank. Excellent perspective and overview. We each need to understand World War I better, these days, because many of the same world conditions exist, even as different as we like to think we are. Human actions, and reactions, are always at the bottom of conflicts. This is an excellent example. Thanks for sharing, for sure! ;-)

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Sad, my Sweet Blossom, isn't it? Saviours come and go, people die unjustly, wars are being fought and yet the simple message of Love is so elusive.

      Yes, your dad may have been very duty conscious. Great that he did not go, perhaps. War rarely brings good news as you have pointed out. Let us all pray together. Peace.

    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 3 years ago from The Shire

      You should turn this into an ebook, Bronwen. It's a fascinating peek into your father's life. What adventures he and your family had!

      I can relate, too. My father was 4F for WWII because of health problems, and he sat down and cried because everybody else was going and he couldn't. But the group he would have shipped out with (including his cousin) was sent to Normandy Beach. His cousin came back shell-shocked and died shortly thereafter. I always told him that getting ruled a 4F was the luckiest day of his life.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      Wow this historical hub was overwhelming.. no matter how anyone reads this via Commentary, suspense, historical, even thriller.. you get the same results.. in others words you hit the mark head on..bless you