Dad never spoke about the war, and I never questioned him. ‘Let sleeping dogs lie,’ he would say. My father, Chris Saunders, was an Indigenous serviceman with the 10th Machine Gun Company Australian 3rd Division, and they served on the Western Front in the First World War.
But he never said much, and I respect that.
Reg my brother was in the 1/6th Battalion, and his story is well documented.
But Harry? What about my brother Harry? I'm buggered if I know. Will I let sleeping dogs lie with Harry? Dad would rather I did. Is it a rite of passage for me to find out?
All I knew was that Harry was a young man when he went to war, served in New Guinea and he died there, much too young.
When our men returned, they never spoke. Maybe they talk to them bloody demons that tormented them. But again, I'm buggered if I know.
I named my youngest after my brother, Harry. But where is my young Harry's namesake? So I searched for our lost soldier in the war records.
He served with the 2/14th Infantry Battalion and joined them after they returned from Syria and headed for Gona, New Guinea.
It didn't surprise me to find out he was a real bloody larrikin. He was reported as AWOL and locked up a few times. Bugger him.
Henry died in Gona at the end of the Kokoda Trail on the 10th of the 12th 1942.
His battalion left New Guinea the next month, having suffered great losses of life.
Our Harry died there, a single man.
So now that we know where he died, part of his rites of passage is to take my young Harry to New Guinea to find our lost soldier, to bring my brother's, Harry's, spirits home. All warriors need to come home. I know my dad would understand that.
Reviewed 11 April 2022