Discovering something new fills me with a wonderful feeling! After years of exploring those boxes that were once housed behind the old cupboard doors, I still find items I never noticed before; hidden gems that have survived beneath the layers of dust and cobwebs as the years come and go.
On one such visit, as I thumbed through a box of books, old cards and photographs, my fingers stumbled across an item that sparked my curiosity. It was a diamond in the rough which I had previously overlooked. As I picked it up, brushed off the dust and held it to the light, I saw something wonderful beyond its dull brown surface.
It shone light on world events that impacted my family and many others. The details of its multi-faceted story glistened like the tears that welled in my eyes. The story is one we Australians have all grown up hearing, but my discovery was an account by someone who was there and witnessed it first hand.
My precious discovery was a book titled “The Fifth Light Horse Regiment” penned by Brigadier General L.C. Wilson who was for the most part, the Commanding Officer of the regiment, along with Captain Wetherell, a regiment officer. Its pages detail the story of the regiment’s activities during the Great War. Whilst devouring the words on the yellowing pages, I found myself sitting beside my Great Grandfather in a boat heading towards the shoreline of Anzac Cove, amidst a showering of Turkish bullets that hit the water, splashing those on board.
That was the moment I realized the value of my newfound treasure and read it from cover to cover. Like all ancient artefacts that have been buried in a safe dark place for more than a lifetime, it soon began to age and fall apart before my eyes. Now I try not to handle it too much and keep it in an archival bag. Fortunately, it is now available for reading online.
My treasure is a piece of history that was presented to members of the Fifth Light Horse Regiment as a souvenir of their participation in the War. It has proved to be invaluable for my research, so much so that I refer to it as my “Bible”.
I would hazard a guess that my Great Grandfather, William Lyons, held the same respect for the book that he did for his own bible. For him, I am sure, the war never entirely ended. When I found the book, there were pieces of paper marking pages; certain passages were underlined and notes scribbled on paper scattered throughout. Perhaps he analysed the various conflicts, reliving the details that I am sure stayed with him for life. I imagine he would have been deeply saddened each time he read the passage about the search party he led out of the trenches of Gallipoli, amidst enemy fire, to retrieve the body of his dead friend, Lt. Hanly.
Out of respect for my Great Grandfather I vow to preserve that little book of memories; to keep that piece of history alive to honour the sacrifices that were made by ordinary Australians like he. Lest we forget.