Underneath the lamplight in Otipua. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
I am in Otipua, South Canterbury. Last night as the sun set over my daughter's property, just behind the Otipua war memorial, I took a photo of the memorial underneath a lamplight. I thought of my Dad, James William Godfrey McKerrow, who fought in North Africa and Italy in WW II, and the eleven young men from the Otipua district who died in Europe fighting for their Motherland, Great Britain. One was a Major who won a DSO and a Captain, who won the Military Cross. Obviously brave men who bore names from Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland. The names of those from Otipua who died during the First World War. May their names live on. Photo: Bob McKerrow
As I took the photo on the going down of the sun, I thought of all those Kiwis who fought in all the wars, and the song that Dad used to sing, and which he had a tattered copy of in five languages; Lili Marlene, came to mind.
Underneath the lantern, by the barrack gate,
Darling I remember the way you used to wait.
'Twas there that you whispered tenderly,
That you loved me,
You'd always be,My Lili of the lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.
Time would come for roll call, Time for us to part,
Darling I'd caress you and press you to my heart,
And there 'neath that far off lantern light,I'd hold you tight,
We'd kiss good-night, My Lili of the lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.
Orders came for sailing somewhere over there,
All confined to barracks was more than I could bear;
I knew you were waiting in the street,I heard your feet,
But could not meet,My Lili of the lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.
Resting in a billet, just behind the line,
Even tho'we're parted, your lips are close to mine.
You wait where that lantern softly gleams.Your sweet face seems to haunt my dreams.
My Lili of the lamplight, My own Lili Marlene.
The Words of Remembrance at the beginning of this posting were written by Pericles well over two thousand years ago, long before the first ANZAC Day, but only a stone’s throw from Gallipoli:
Each has won a glorious grave - not that sepulchre of earth wherein they lie, but the living tomb of everlasting remembrance wherein their glory is enshrined. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of heroes. Monuments may rise and tablets be set up to them in their own land, but on far-off shores there is an abiding memorial that no pen or chisel has traced; it is graven not on stone or brass, but on the living hearts of humanity.
Take these men for your example. Like them, remember that prosperity can be only for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.
Engraved forever at ANZAC Cove are these words from Kemal Ataturk, the Commander of the Turkish 19th Division during the Gallipoli Campaign and the first President of the Turkish Republic from 1924-1938:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now living in the soil of a friendly country therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
At the going down of the sun...
I crouched in a shallow trench on that hell of exposed beaches... steeply rising foothills bare of cover... a landscape pockmarked with war’s inevitable litter... piles of stores... equipment... ammunition... and the weird contortions of death sculptured in Australian flesh... I saw the going down of the sun on that first ANZAC Day... the chaotic maelstrom of Australia’s and New Zealand's blooding.
I fought in the frozen mud of the Somme... in a blazing destroyer exploding on the North Sea... I fought on the perimeter at Tobruk... crashed in the flaming wreckage of a fighter in New Guinea... lived with the damned in the place cursed with the name Changi.
I was your mate... the kid across the street... the med. student at graduation... the mechanic in the corner garage... the baker who brought you bread... the gardener who cut your lawn... the clerk who sent your phone bill.
I was an Army private... a Naval commander... an Air Force bombardier. no man knows me... no name marks my tomb, for I am every Australian or NZ serviceman... I am the Unknown Soldier.
I died for a cause I held just in the service of my land... that you and yours may say in freedom...