Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25. Day 116. Lest we forget.

In the lead-up to Anzac Day 1990 in a hotel room in Instanbul I had one of the moments that stays with you forever. There I got to kiss a 94-year-old veteran on the forehead and tuck him into bed as he prepared to travel to Gallipoli for the first time since he had landed there in 1915.

Until a couple of weeks before that Anzac Day I had worked at the Sunshine Coast Daily where we'd had a keen interest in 94-year-old George Svenson of Maleny who was returning to Gallipoli to mark the 75th anniversary of the first Anzac landing.
I'd met George in Australia and it had been arranged that I would follow his journey for the paper while I was on the first leg of my big overseas adventure.
So, as arranged, I fronted to the hotel in Istanbul where George was staying. It was about 6pm and from the hotel desk I phoned his room.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: "George, I'm in the foyer can I come up and have a chat?"
George: "The weather's really nice here"
Me: "Yes I know. I'm in the foyer. can I come up?"
George: "They are looking after me really well"

At this stage the desk clerk took pity on me and let me go up. George was in bed and in his PJs but was happy to chat.
He told me his daughter had just called from Australia and he'd assured her that the weather was nice here and they were looking after him!

He excitedly told me he felt "tip top" but was thinking about the"poor sods" who didn't make it.
He was clearly tired so I said I'd let myself out. He invited me to tuck him in, and so I did.

Two days later we were in Anzac Cove and every year since I think of George on Anzac Day. This year I was at Anzac Square in Brisbane at 4am, finally keeping the vow I made in 1990 to attend dawn services. This photo above is of seven-year-old Stuart of Wavell Heights paying his respects at the shrine.

It's heartening that new generations won't forget the sacrifice of men such as George. It's the least we can do.

1 comment:

  1. Both great pictures, accompanied with a very moving story... LEST WE FORGET