I have taken a while to respond to your letter as I wanted to give it the attention it deserved and it has sat here on my desk waiting for me to get the right moment to open it again and savour the contents.
As soon as I read the first paragraph on 1 September I knew we had much in common. My grandfather also served in WWI, originally enlisting in 36th Battalion and was wounded in the Somme on 15 December 1916, and suffered badly from significant physical and psychological injuries for the rest of his life. He also enlisted again in WWII. Ironically his name was Harold and his first marriage also fell apart shortly after WWI.
In 2013 I travelled with a group to the Western front Battlefields and stood in the place where pop fought and was so damaged. It was a deeply moving trip and I list it right up there with the significant moments of my life. I look forward to the opportunity to travel back to the Somme in 2016 for the centenary of that awful battle that created so many young Legacy wards.
My grandmother, Ada, was a governess and nurse and married Harold around 1928 at the height of the Great Depression. Both Harold and Ada lived long lives and we had the joy of knowing them both. Harold was a lovely but difficult man who liked his drinking and smoking in spite of the detrimental effects on his health and I can vividly recall Grandma’s answer to my older sister when she asked why Gran had put up with him. The answer was that ‘he was a wounded and sick soldier who needed looking after’.
That sense of responsibility to those who served in the Great War is what gave rise to organisations such as Legacy and your grandfather would have personally known our founder Stan Savige who started the first Legacy Club here in Melbourne in 1923. Stan was Club President in 1929 so no doubt your grandfather would have worked closely with him in those days.”
Jenny referred me to a book called ‘Somme Mud’ which gives a graphic description of life on the battlefield for our grandfathers. Jenny “found it to be a useful insight to what he would have endured as he never spoke of the war or marched in an Anzac Day march. Indeed when I told pop I was going to join the Army Reserve he was aghast but I went ahead and did it anyway. I’m glad I did. That decision put my life on the path that led me to Legacy and I am so proud to be part of an organisation that cares so much for the families of those who served and will never abandon them.”
Jenny joined the Army Reserve at age 27 and served for 16 years reaching the rank of Major.
Harry Albury Buckman, was born at Bowraville near Nambucca Heads on 13 May 1897. He enlisted on 31 January 1916 just short of his 19th birthday. Harry was severely wounded during fighting on the Somme by gunshot wounds to the face and back which led to him being shipped home and discharged as medically unfit for duty 27 October 1917. He worked as a fettler on the railways after the war. When WWII broke out Harry moved his wife and five young children to Sydney so that he could enlist and serve again on home soil. He was promoted to Sergeant.
When he died on 1 September 1982 Harry’s ashes were buried in the place he loved on the headland overlooking Nambucca Heads. A painting of the view from the same place is one of Jenny’s most treasured mementoes of her grandfather.
Lest we forget!