Remembering Your Family’s War Stories This Anzac Day

If you haven’t already done so, commit to making time this ANZAC Day to remember and record your family’s war stories. 

War has been a defining feature in Australia’s history in every generation. We have been involved in wars abroad since 1899 when our first 561 ADF (Australian Defence Forces) were killed or missing. Since then we have been immersed ten major wars, and a further fifty peacekeeping operations around the world. 

Australian women during the war
Four of the five Rea brothers, William, George, Alex and Herbert Rea circa 1915. All five brothers came back.

While we will always honour and mourn the 101,000 Australian lives lost, we also need to honour the contribution of those, almost a million men and women, who came back home.  Many who gave up their careers, their health and wellbeing to fight for freedom are around us today and they all have stories to tell. Now is the time to listen if only to appreciate the horror of conflict that we hope very few of the current generation will ever know first-hand. 

Many who carry the burden of war cannot easily talk about their experiences, however healing the telling may be. But we can help by encouraging discussion, recording experiences, and listen, listen, listen. What did they see? How did they feel? How did it change them and their lives? Many have been deeply affected by their experiences both physically and mentally. And, no doubt, they will all remember how it was. We owe it to them.

ANZAC Day is also a time for us to remember and understand the stories of those who stayed home and whose lives too were changed forever because of war. Those that had to step up into new roles, or to be sent away when children were evacuated to the country, and all who had to endure the hardship and tragedy of the war experience.  For some, and for many women, the war years are remembered as some of the best in their lives. They remember the strong sense of connection, working together and bonding to defeat a common enemy, with great fondness.  

Everyone has their unique war stories to share, and family stories to remember. This Anzac Day, be prepared to ask questions, pay attention and take notes. If it’s too hard, engage a life story professional to help – before it’s too late.

Michael Collins, and Gillian Ednie, Life Stories Australia Founding Members.

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