Oor Hoose, and ANZAC day.

And so it is.

A week in, and we’re sorted at last – the internets and phone lines were the last things to get connected up. Boxes are now stacked empty in the garage and the rooms themselves are full of stuff. It feels comfortable, already. I think we’ll come to love living here.

Here’s a funny thing, though. If you stand at the front door and look out, you see directly across the way the house where my mother grew up. We knew was there was a family place somewhere on the street, but we didn’t know it was so close until after making an offer. I’ve since learned that my great-grandfather Felix used to sit on the steps outside the front door there and watch the passers-by. It was a railways street so I expect he knew most everyone who passed. I like the idea that our new house was one of the ones he watched over in the late days of his life.

The last few ANZAC days I’ve excerpted from Felix’s war diaries. Here’s 29 September, 1918:

3.30am. Away went a very poor barrage and over we went. Took Welsh Ridge and four lines of trenches and hundreds of prisoners and village of Vacquerie. Got to our objective and consolidated. Casualties very light. Got a lot of officer prisoners and our boys have loads of souvenirs, glasses, [?], matches etc. A very successful stunt. Especially as it was pitch dark until we got up to our objective and Fritz had a lot of wire in front. The Boache seemed to me to surrender very easily. One of our Companies got too far ahead and lost two platoons. The Huns only took the fit men, dressing our wounded and leaving them until we came along.

The action at Welsh Ridge was near the end of hostilities, part of the “Hundred Days Offensive” that broke through the Western front. It was also an important experience for Felix. John H. Gray’s Quid Non Pro Patria: The Short Distinguished Military Life of Henry James Nicholas VC MM relies on Felix’s diaries for detail and colour, for Felix and VC-winner Henry Nicholas were in many of the same places. It includes some words from Felix’s daughter Mary (my grandmother’s sister) on something that happened at Welsh Ridge when he found a bugle:

He told us that during the battle he was pinned down and took shelter where he could. In so doing he found himself alongside the body of a German soldier. On his back was an unusual article covered in scrim. It was the bugle, so covered presumably to prevent reflection from its shiny surface.

He turned the body over and was struck by its youth and by its beauty. An olive-skinned young man of fine features, little more than a child. Killed he presumed by blast as he was unmarked.

Her father had said more than once over the years, that the sight of that dead boy encapsulated for him the futility of war, and picking up the bugle he had said, at least to himself – “I’ll take this and keep it for you.”

Felix kept the bugle, and every night thereafter he prayed for that young German.

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