Odes for Heroes
You don’t have to win a medal to be a hero. Every person, male or female, who signs a contract of service within Australia’s Defence Forces, is a hero. They promise to serve and protect our country with their life. The following verses and text reflect their bravery, sacrifice, humour and thoughts.
WORLD WAR I
During World War I Australian troops were paid the princely sum of six shillings a day, an enormous amount considering the The New Zealanders were paid five shillings. British Tommy (soldier) was only paid a shilling a day. This made the ANZACs the best paid soldiers in the war.
"We are the Anzac Army
We cannot shoot, we don’t salute,
What bloody good are we?
And when we get to Ber-lin
The Kaiser he will say:
‘Hoch, Hoch! Mein Gott, what an odd lot
To get six bob a day!"
– Author unknown
The English Press didn’t know what to make of the ANZACs as they were so different from the British soldiers.
Australian War Correspondent C.E.W. Bean explained their nature:
'To be the sort of man who would give way when his mates were trusting in his firmness; to be the of man who would fail when the line required his endurance; to live the rest of his life haunted by the knowledge that he had set his hand to a soldier’s task and had lacked the grit to carry it through – that was the prospect that these men could not face. Life was very dear, but life was not worth living unless they could be true to their idea of Australian manhood.'
Phillip Gibbs, English War Correspondent, 1916, penned the following about the ANZAC troops:
'They were gipsy fellow with none but the gipsy law in their hearts, intolerant of restraint, with no respect for rank or caste unless it carried strength with it, difficult to handle behind the lines, quick-tempered, foul-mouthed and primitive men, but loveable, human, generous souls when their bayonets were not red with blood.’
Excerpt from the poem by C J Dennis ‘The Sentimental Bloke’,
"When I'm sittin' in me dug-out wiv the bullets droppin' near,"
Writes ole Ginger; "an' a chorus smacks me in the flamin' ear:
P'raps a song that Rickards billed, or p'raps a line o' Waltz Matilder',
Then I feel I'm in Australia, took an' shifted over 'ere.
Till the music sort o' gits me, an' I lets me top notes roam
While I treats the gentle foeman to a chunk uv "Ome, Sweet 'Ome'."
They wus singin' on the troopship, they wus singin' in the train;
When they left their land be'ind 'em they wus shoutin' a refrain,
An' I'll bet they 'ave a chorus, gay an' glad in greetin' for us,
When their bit uv scappin's over, an' they lob back 'ome again. . .
An' the blokes that ain't returnin' - blokes that's paid the biggest price,
They go singin', singin', singin' to the Gates uv Paradise.”
– Originally published in The Bulletin 23 December 1915 in its entirety.