Mologa Anzac Day Address 2022 – Allison Paterson
One hundred and two years ago, on the 24th of March 1920, the Mologa War Memorial was unveiled by my great-grandmother Sarah Marlow. Her son, my grandfather Lt Allan Marlow, was by her side. Surrounded by a large gathering of community members, they stood on a wooden platform as Sarah removed the Union Jack from the granite column. An Australian flag fluttered on the platform while the national anthem, God Save the King was sung. Guest speakers reminded all that the sacrifice made by the young Australians listed on the memorial was not in vain, that the preservation of freedoms and rights had been upheld.
Much has changed since 1920. I ask you to take a leap of imagination to a time when Mologa once thrived. At various periods there was Lister’s store and Savilles, Carlyon’s store, Rankin’s store then Windridge’s and Phillips’, the churches, Grant’s hall and later the Memorial Hall, Glasses bakery, the railway station, the oval and tennis courts, the blacksmith, a mill, the post office, the schools, Grant’s Hotel and the Farmer’s Arms Hotel. I hope you can picture a time before the community needed to create a memorial to these young men, a time when few had cars and the town bustled and thrived. A time when people traipsed these dusty roads in worn-out boots and dresses with dirty hems and when allegiance to the Empire was strong but the people were proud of their new Australian nation.
Let’s try to visualise one moment in time. It was a Monday evening, September 27th, 1915 at 8.30 pm. Grant’s hall, near the junction of the 3-chain road and Price’s Rd, was crowded as the community gathered to farewell the first of the Marlow brothers to leave, 24 year-old George. The gathering sang patriotic songs, made rousing speeches and presented George with a medallion from Mologa and friends. The following day the family hitched the horse to the wagon and drove George along this road to the railway station, where friends had gathered. Sarah farewelled her son with a mixture of pride and apprehension. Perhaps George promised he would return. It was a promise made to loved ones all over the Empire. A promise that left families unprepared for the empty place left by those who would never come home, like the sons of Sarah and Charles Marlow – George, Charlie and Albert and the other sevens sons whose lives were tragically cut short and are buried on distant shores – Robert Campbell, Ray Leed, Daniel O’Sullivan, Jack Price, Will Street, Pat Ryan and Les Townsend. The loss of their lives cast the darkest of generational shadows, branches of family trees that never had the chance to grow.
Families waited and prayed that their loved ones would return and were thankful if they did. We remain grateful today that the following men were spared to become fathers, uncles, our grandfathers, for many here today, our direct line of ancestors: Tom Alford, James Dillon, Charles Fyffe, David Fyffe, Alf Ferris, Tom Gray, Amos Haw, Knowlson Haw, Ewen Johnston, William Leed, Allan Marlow, Percy Marlow, Hugh Martin, Andrew Price, John Ryan, Michael Ryan, Henry Street and Wilsie Townsend.
The Anzacs of Mologa left here with a sense of duty and with a sense of adventure. What was to come they could never have imagined, nor could they imagine that their actions were to become a legend. The first Anzacs that scrambled up the sheer cliffs to the ridges of Gallipoli endured so much and today we remember their courage and tenacity and honour all those who set foot upon those shores in what was an ill-conceived and ill-fated mission. Those who survived, and those who were to soon join the Gallipoli veterans, went on to secure the ancient biblical lands of Jerusalem and forge the legends of the Light Horse. Those who found themselves in the trenches of the Western Front variously endured such futile and devastating battles as Fromelles, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Menin Road, Passchendaele, Villers Bretonneux, Amiens, Mont St Quentin and Peronne. I say futile for no matter whether a battle was considered successful or not, the loss of life simply defies belief. It was a war of attrition.
Of a population of just 4.9 million, 340,000 Australians served overseas in the combined Australian military forces, 313,000 of these were of the volunteer Australian Imperial Force. They suffered the greatest attrition rate of any nation with over 60,000 being killed. One in five of the Australians who enlisted were destined to not come home.
The Armistice was signed on the 11th of November 1918 at 5.00 am in a train carriage on a forested railway siding on the Western Front. Six hours later, all fighting ceased and the guns fell silent. Across the world approximately 16 million people had lost their lives and another 20 million were wounded, of these 8 million were left with a permanent disability.
Mologa and its families had suffered greatly. Of those who listed the town as their home at the time, 10 of its gallant soldiers were buried on distant shores. No number of patriotic words could ease the pain of such enormous loss. As a child, I was told that Sarah Marlow, my great-grandmother had died of a broken heart. I didn’t understand what ‘dying of a broken heart’ meant, until I had read the letters of her sons and appreciated the anguish a parent would feel. Families at home did not have graves about which they could gather, say farewell and grieve for their loved ones. Sons were missing on the fields of Flanders and the valleys of the Somme, lost at sea or buried on distant shores that for most family members, they would never have the opportunity to visit.
Afterwards, World War I became known as The Great War – for a time considered to be the War to End All Wars. If only this prediction had been true. History reminds us that aggressive, power-hungry and autocratic leaders will always exist and are prepared to beat a path to the tragedy of war, regardless of the cost. Just two decades after the conclusion of World War I, many war memorials across Australia also honoured the fallen of World War II and then the service of Australians in the many other conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australians have served: Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Iran, Iraq, Namibia, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Bougainville, East Timor, The Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.
Today, we watch on as war continues and, as Europe and the world grapple with a dangerous aggressor, we are reminded that peaceful solutions should always be sought, but are not always possible. While the world has changed since 1920, the right to protect our democratic freedoms, our rights and our way of life does not change, those basic human rights will always exist and should be protected.
Over one hundred years on since the Mologa War Memorial came to be, Australia is a democratic country, strong, prosperous and when compared to others, we live in safety. I don’t believe this is simply because our nation is considered to be a lucky country. The ideals, hard work, intelligence and qualities of our forebears, including the respect for Country of the First Nations People, the resilience of the convicts, the grit of the early settlers, and the courage and sacrifice of those who defend us, make us who we are. These elements are truly the foundation of our nation’s identity, its pride and its success. The first Anzacs and those who have served since in the defence of our way of life and the safety of others deserve our gratitude and our deepest respect. This monument and those like it across the world, stand for their courage and the enormous sacrifice that they and their families endured to preserve the rights and freedoms of others.
Thank you to those who gather here on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day to keep the memory of these young men alive. Thank you, once again, to the Mologa and District Landcare Group who continue to care for this sacred memorial. Your work is greatly appreciated. It is this lonely war memorial that pays solitary testament to the people who once lived here and the young men who sacrificed so much. The monument, and the land surrounding it, is sacred to me, my family and the people who care for it, past and present.
It remains our duty, and that of future generations, to never forget.