Who was that young man in the picture, that handsome young soldier dressed in heavy khaki, and the little boy beside him, attired in his best blue and white sailor suit? Was the cherubic infant his brother or his son? Was the photo taken just before the young man left home for the Great War? He smiles at the camera, blue-eyed and smooth skinned, his strong chin handsomely cleft, a gentle gaze invoking innocence and expectation. Pride. Readiness to go and help the “Mother Country” in Gallipoli, France or in Flanders’ Fields.
I found the photograph of this man in an old wares shop in Quorn, South Australia, in the mid 1970s. It was sepia toned, taken in 1915, but I always saw the colours that weren’t there, the khaki, the bronzed badge, the bairn’s pink cheeks and blond curls. He used to gaze serenely from my wall, slouch hat shadowing his brow, and spoke to me in times of loneliness, restoring my balance with his ever-present calm.
Someone, perhaps his parents, paid dearly for that studio portrait and framing. Beautifully carded, simply framed in austere honeyed oak, worn shiny with time. Why was the portrait discarded? Did he die somewhere in that horrific war? Were his elders left, like so many country folk, to struggle against nature on those arid plains, sowing wheat and grazing sheep, without a son to assist them? Did his family line just disappear?
I think of that man often, I can still see his face. I am the keeper of his memory.
My post last Anzac Day, 2014. Commemorating Slaughter with a Biscuit. https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/anzac-day-2014-commemorating-slaughter-with-a-biscuit/