‘I'd love to be able to talk to him now’: All rise, for Remembrance

IN SERVICE: Veterans John Day, Brian King, Peter Edwards and Roger Carr stand for Remembrance Day in Wollongong.
IN SERVICE: Veterans John Day, Brian King, Peter Edwards and Roger Carr stand for Remembrance Day in Wollongong.

Paul Cracknell scarcely knew his father, who died when he was eight years old. 

At Anzac Day and on Remembrance Day he likes to give Lieutenant Commander Donald Cracknell’s war medals “an outing”, remember what little he knew of his father, and think of what might have been. 

“I felt a bit shortchanged,” said Mr Cracknell, of Figtree, whose father served in both world wars. 

RESPECT: A soldier stands in readiness as Uncle Richard Archibald lays a wreath at Saturday's service. Pictures: Sylvia Liber

RESPECT: A soldier stands in readiness as Uncle Richard Archibald lays a wreath at Saturday's service. Pictures: Sylvia Liber

“His cause of death was pneumonia and heart failure, triggered by the fact he came home from [service in] New Guinea with bronchial pneumonia, that followed malaria.  

“I'd love to be able to talk to him now. It’s odd – he died at 52, now I'm 73 – quite a bit older than him. 

“He was the ship's officer during the war … I’m a sailor, so there’s a lot of things we could have talked about.

LEADERS

LEADERS

“The sacrifices that they made – but ultimately that our country made in losing so many young men … These people more or less gave their lives for us, for our freedom, and you can't forget that.” 

Mr Cracknell, of Figtree, was among those who stood for a minute’s silence at the Cenotaph in Wollongong’s MacCabe Park on Saturday as part of the Remembrance Day service.

This year the day marks the 99th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War 1 in 1918. 

HATS OFF: Men pay their respects at the service, led by speakers including Royal Australian Navy Captain Stuart Dunne and Wollongong RSL president Peter Poulton (below).

HATS OFF: Men pay their respects at the service, led by speakers including Royal Australian Navy Captain Stuart Dunne and Wollongong RSL president Peter Poulton (below).

The crowd was significantly smaller than the one that forms at the same place on Anzac Day, despite the incredible scale of Australia’s losses from World War 1. 

Of the 102,000 Australian servicemen and women who have lost their lives in conflicts, more than 61,000 of them died in World War 1. 

This, when the country’s population had not yet reached five million. 

MEDALS OUT: Paul Cracknell, of Figtree, attends the Remebrance Day service each year in tribute to his late father, who served in both world wars.

MEDALS OUT: Paul Cracknell, of Figtree, attends the Remebrance Day service each year in tribute to his late father, who served in both world wars.

As Captain Stuart Dunne, Royal Australian Navy, told the crowd assembled at Wollongong on Saturday, the was was all-reaching.

“By war's end, one Australian soldier out of every five had been killed,” he said. 

“I would argue that no one made it through the war untouched.” 

The anniversary had since become a time for remembering all war losses, he said.

“At the time it [World War 1] was the great war - the war to end all wars - or so it was hoped. Unfortunately, all in vain,” he said. 

“While this day marks a very specific event in history, it is an opportunity to honour and reflect upon all Australians who served, suffered and were called upon to mark the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation and to our people. 

“We reflect on the loss of loved ones, experienced by so many families and friends. We reflect on those who did … return, but with broken bodies and broken souls.

“We give thanks to all those that served and those that continue to serve.”