Good Morning again from my desk.
If only photographs could talk? I am sure they would make the family historian’s life much easier, providing the answers to the myriads of questions we have whirring around in our heads. They could solve the many mysteries of our ancestors’ lives and alleviate the pain when no “who”, “when” or “where” have been provided.
There are some images, however, that perhaps would be best left alone. Their crowded shoe box graves should be left undisturbed. When you happen upon one of those images and delve deep into its soul, you may be told stories that you would be best not knowing at all.
Most families in Australia have exhumed those images from their resting places of old. Like myself, many of you have dug into the depths of old cupboards and trunks and retrieved bundles of sepia grieving souls whose troubles had been laid to rest many decades ago. Predominantly, they are photographs of young men who had prematurely aged beyond their years. Their empty staring eyes have seen things that would reduce the strongest man to tears.
You know the ones I am talking about. We all have them. We return their stares and wonder about the details of their military lives. We excitedly order their records online and upon receipt of a bundle of papers, read from beginning to end. But, I’d like to remind you that the official records do not really tell you what happened to those young men.
A few years ago, I sat down with a family friend who had experienced the horrors of the Second World War. He had an incessant need to document his story. He felt compelled to tell the truth. It is that truth that we may not be ready to hear. The truth of war is more horrible than one can possibly imagine. Witnessing the capabilities of mankind to inflict such acts of atrocity upon one another is beyond what humans are meant to bear.
So, next time you pull out those old shoeboxes you keep behind your cupboard doors, you might think twice before you ask too many questions of those poor military souls. They rarely shared their experiences when they were here. They buried their memories as they strove to live out their lives in peace. So, if you ask too many questions whilst looking into their wide staring eyes, they will more than likely reply “You don’t want to know. Just leave it be. Please let me rest in peace.”
I know that my Great Grandfather never told my Great Grandmother Harriet the more horrific aspects of the Great War. To quote his own words, “There are things that are too horrible for a woman to hear!” So, it is likely that he would not wish to burden me either.
I shall end on that thought and return on Thursday as William leaves for the Boer War.