The following newspaper article appeared in The Mercury, Monday 14 August 1944. Although unattributed it was written by Fred Fairthorne. (The following image is from a xeroxcopy of the newspaper cutting.)
The transcript by Helene Riedl reads:
“Written by a Launceston Boy
....To His Father”
“Written by a Launceston boy from the Middle East to his father” was the simple title of a simple letter read when the toast of members of the Allied fighting forces everywhere was honoured at the Association Day smoke concert of the Commercial Travellers’ Association of Tasmania at Launceston on Saturday. Simply and movingly it depicted, as the proposer of the toast, Mr. W.A. Dawson said, the feelings of every fighting man in the Allied cause. Here is the letter:
“Sunday again, and I have just returned from a Memorial Church service to our pals who have paid the supreme sacrifice. It was most impressive, and it left its mark, with a medley of thoughts chasing each other around my head.
“I couldn’t help but think, dad, that you had experienced the same thing, in the same manner in the last war. You, I know, would have had the same thoughts as I had, and responded in exactly the same manner.
The band, which was one of the best I have heard here, played a background to the trumpets and drums during the “Last Post” – it was the climax of the whole service, and one of the most impressive I have heard – I don’t think I shall ever forget it. It took me back to the early morning not so long ago, when we pulled out of that area of ground made holy with the blood of young Australia – El Alamein. It was before sunrise, and it was raining – as if the heavens themselves wept to see us leaving our fallen comrades. Very slowly, and almost in a hushed manner, we pulled out past the scattered mounds with their white crosses showing in the rain-blurred light of our blacked-out headlamps. Our lads left behind, and still the darkened heavens wept.
“It was quite oppressive in the cabin of the tractor, and I think me mood caught Tom Williams, my driver, because neither of us spoke – lost in our own thoughts.
“I thought instinctively of you telling me of how you sneaked out and left Gallipoli behind – here I was, participating in the same thing – leaving those lads behind who had not died in vain – with the difference being that our Gallipoli was able to be more victorious in completion.
“A few lines that also came into my head ran something like this:
We who are left – how should we look again
Happily on the sun, or feel the rain
When remembering how they who went
And gave their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain.
A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings,
But we – how shall we turn to little things,
Of birds, and wind, and streams
Made holy by their dreams.
Nor feel the heartbreak in the heart of things.
“We continued our trip past Tel El Elisa Station – Ruin Ridge – I just couldn’t see. The silent sentinel kept watch on the mounds showing dimly white, sacred Australian soil – we won this desolate wet strip of soil – and held it at a very great cost. Point 23, Hill 33, Points 22 and 24 are all on our left, the old notices of Sydney Road, Bombay Road, Rear Headquarters, DID Water Point still stand, but no longer mean anything. Still we passed these white crosses and still the heavens wept.
“Why must this kind of thing happen? For what good is it all? This sacrifice must hold something more than that of 1914-18. It cannot happen again. Past the old stone crusher, and the first grayness of dawn came – the clouds cleared away, and soon the sky showed blue against the white of scurrying fleecy clouds – the sun shone. Could this be the answer to it all? The light of day and brightness and peacefulness at long last”.
Fred Fairthorne in 2006
Fred Fairthorne and Ron Ware in 2010.