Remembering The Unknown Soldier – ANZAC DAY 2014

 “He is all of them, and he is one of us.” – Inscription on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Australian War Memorial

 

This ANZAC Day is particularly poignant for me. Today I can finally acknowledge my grandfather and the role he played with the No. 1 Wireless Operations Unit in World War Two. For me, my grandfather IS an unknown soldier, even though he returned home at the end of the war, and lived a long and fruitful life.

I never knew much about Pa’s involvement in the war. He always avoided my questions, and other family members were dismissive of his service. Even Nana didn’t seem to know what Pa did during his years with the Australian Air Force. She confessed to me, many years after Pa died, that she had suspected her young husband might have been having an affair, which is why his contact with her and their baby son (my Dad) had been irregular and at times non-existent during the war. Nana had always been cranky with Pa for enlisting just months after she’d given birth, and long after the fighting was over Pa’s war years caused continuing issues within their marriage.

Nana, Pa and Baby Ron, July 1940

Nana, Pa and Baby Ron, July 1940

I grew up feeling that somehow Pa hadn’t really been a proper member of the armed forces, in the way that other men had. In the way his brothers, and Nana’s brothers had. I thought he’d had an easy ride. A safe and forgettable assignment while other men, including Nana’s favourite brother, paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives.

Oh Pa, I’m so sorry about that. I just never knew. What a secret keeper you were.

Earlier this year I applied for and received my grandfather’s War Service records. Carefully my husband and I combed through the reams of official paperwork. All that was said.  All that was not said.

Pa had been a member of the No. 1 Wireless Unit. I’d never heard of them. So I dug around and discovered that they were a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Signals Intelligence Unit, sworn to secrecy about their operations, locations and duties. Their service records were kept sealed for many years. Among other things they intercepted radio signals from the Japanese and worked with encryption and decryption of intelligence. Pa’s Unit was based variously out of Darwin, Sydney, Townsville, Brisbane and Papua New Guinea. He was medically evacuated twice out of Northern bases, once after the bombing of Darwin, and once from New Guinea. He was sent both times to a military hospital in Sydney, although there is no record of his specific illness or injury.

We never knew.

And he never said.

So it seems that Pa’s unwillingness to speak about his war-time role had much to do with his continued mission secrecy, and the oaths he had sworn as part of his service.

Today I’m honouring my grandfather, Corporal Donald Cody, all those lost through war, and the men and women who have served and come home, bearing secrets they will never share, and which will cost them dearly.

To all of you, I say Thank You. There are not adequate words to express my gratitude for your honour and your sacrifice, and my sorrow at your silent suffering.

Lest we forget.

ANZAC Day Red Poppy Wreath by Sophia Kueh

ANZAC Day Red Poppy Wreath by Sophia Kueh

11 thoughts on “Remembering The Unknown Soldier – ANZAC DAY 2014

  1. His loyalty and silence for his country at the cost of family relationships shows true and brave character! You come from good stock Nicole! I shall have a moment of silence in honor of you Pa and his fellow soldiers of the Australian Armed Forces. And for your family as well for the heartaches that you must have endured due to the silence. Bless you all.

  2. Beautifully said Nicole. My grandfather also “never said”; yet I know there was deep suffering and mental scarring. And your story does bring to mind that in “those days” emotional support was practically non-existent (almost scoffed at). Today the tools and techniques for dealing with such stresses are so much more available (in all senses) and I feel heartsore for our grandparent/s quiet inner turmoils

  3. A beautiful post, Nicole. Bravo you for searching for the answers when you were unsure what would be found. I have a mixed history with the military. On my father’s side, I’ve learnt, in an atypical way my grandmother was orphaned on the loss of her father on the Western Front (my dad found his grandather’s name on the gate monument, sorry can’t remember what that is called) in WW1. On my mother’s side, my grandfather was interred and sent to S.A. as he hadn’t taken “British subject” (no citizenship then) status – his records are still blacked out in many places (I was the one who searched on him) and yet his brother served in the RAAF. The legacies of both these events and experiences marked both families permanently.

  4. I would love to know about my grandfathers war service but he never spoke about those years and it wasn’t till he was in the nursing home that mum mentioned one of the reason he would get distressed was because he thought he was back in a Jap PoW camp but still we know next to nothing about his service

    • If you have an details of his service you can use them (even just a name) to search the War Memorial database. If you find the records, they can send copies out to you (for a fee). A superb service that is worth the effort.

  5. I happened to be in the city this morning, just as the march was starting. I had been on my way somewhere else, but was compelled to find a vantage point and observe the event for the first time ever. What an amazing couple of hours. I was struck by the reverence, gratitude, respect and diversity of the crowd. I was also struck by the marchers. Current serving members who seem like ‘kids’ with a chest full of medals, those ‘kids’ in reality probably older than a lot of the original ANZAC diggers and many subsequent that made the ultimate sacrifice. Both my grandfathers served in WWII, both came back ‘in one piece’ – physically. One passed the year before I was born, the other lived until just a handful of years ago, though I never met him either, believing for many years that he ‘died in the war’. Truth was, he may as well have as it affected him so much, he and my Nan divorced soon afterwards and she went on to raise their three kids (my mum and uncles) as a single mother. My life, and so many others, could have been so different. Thanks to both of them, your Pa and all the others who served their nation and continue to do so. Lest we forget.

  6. If you would like more details of No1 WU go to your library and see if you can borrow a book called, The Eavesdroppers by Jack Bleakley.

  7. I loved this post Nic. As I finish up more than 20 years in the Army myself, with a Vietnam Vet as a father and decorated Great-Grandfather from WWI – ANZAC Day has always been significant to me. My Greta-Grandfather fought in France, suffered from gas attacks where he was evacuated for treatment then sent back to the trenches. Understandably, he returned a different man and died much too young for the whole family. It seems he never really spoke of his experiences.

    Even for those of us who have not worked in intelligence like your Grandfather, or in horrific war zones like my Great-grandfather it is hard to talk to those who have not been with you during your deployed experiences. That is why ANZAC Day can be so good for veterans. Having the opportunity to catch up with people who have seen or experienced similar seems to be really cathartic. I have seen my Dad, brighten up from a day with other Vietnam Vets, in a way his family never could.

    ANZAC Day is about remembrance and honour of those who have served and are serving. For me ANZAC Day is something that is so unique to us and the Kiwis it makes me enormously proud. Thanks for your post.

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