Another October, and a birthday remembered

So September averaged 34 hits a day on this blog, slightly down. The best day was 7 September with 70 hits. It was this 2013 post responsible for half of those: Nobel prize winner’s obituary triggers memories.

Aside from the home page, the top six posts in September have been:

Nobel prize winner’s obituary triggers memories 43 views in September 2017
Tell us, when will these things happen? 30
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay” 29
Taste of Xi’an Wollongong 24
More from the world of the Postal Survey 21
I’ve had my say… 15

Tomorrow, 3 October, would have been my brother’s 82nd birthday. See Ian Jeffrey Whitfield 3/10/1935 – 5/4/2017.

bro

Advertisements

One hundred years ago in Belgium: Dad’s cousin

It is rather appropriate that I am posting this on 29th September 2017 at City Diggers in Wollongong. Norman Harold Whitfield was my father’s cousin.

On 1st February 1917 Norman was awarded the Military Cross. The citation reads: ‘For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and skill in siting a communication trench under heavy fire. Later, he carried out a dangerous daylight reconnaissance. He has at all times set a fine example.’
Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 116; Date: 25 July 1917.

On 29th September 1917 he was wounded in action but remained on duty.

On 17th June 1919 he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross for action on 29th September 1918.

The citation reads: ‘Near Bellicourt, on 29th September, 1918, he led his company through a heavy covering barrage to their allotted work, and was responsible for the initial success of the day’s operations. Later, when the enemy held part of Bellicourt, he took forward a portion of his platoon, under heavy machine gun fire, and drove the enemy out, thereby enabling the road to be got through. Later again, in the absence of infantry, he organized a party and silenced a machine gun, and also dispersed the crew of an anti-tank gun. His marked courage and devotion to duty were an inspiration to his men.’

See also my posts One hundred years ago or thereabouts…, 22 – Whitfields 1915 and 25 – more on WW1 soldier Norman Whitfield.

norman

Norman Harold Whitfield

And adding to the appropriateness of where I am posting this: see Trove. It describes Norman Whitfield’s welcome home by the members of the Wollongong Returned Soldiers’ Association.

nla.news-page000015257156-nla.news-article132409798-L3-4dd62dc82b913946169ccb89c6834d64-0001

A hundred years ago in Belgium

There was a special commemoration in Belgium yesterday.

ALMOST 1000 people have made an emotional journey to Polygon Wood in Belgium to honour the 5700 young Australian soldiers killed in battle there 100 years ago.

Descendants and friends of the fallen gathered among the headstones at the Buttes New British Cemetery outside the township of Zonnebeke for a dawn service, honouring the sacrifice of the young soldiers killed a century ago on September 26, 1917.

b1a7b4a86fba8126e776ce7b99af0129

I thought of two of my family, an uncle I knew and an uncle I never knew.

This man was for sure my favourite Whitfield uncle – well, the only one I ever met in fact. [There was Uncle George of course, but he was “by marriage”.] But he was a really good man, as I recall, with snowy white hair and a crack shot with a rifle – he had competed in that sport. See my April 2014 post Shellharbour.

UHP-IND574

Kenneth Ross WHITFIELD (b.1897  d. 1967) m 1920 Esma H. EAST (b. 1895 d. 24 Mar. 1971)

The other uncle — great-uncle actually — was David Belford Christison.

davec

His life was short. He married Flora Fletcher in 1907 and had three children, all daughters as far as I have been able to find out. According to one source Flora died as recently as 1971. I never met her. David died four years after returning from World War 1.

His military record is available. He was a sapper.

Engineers, also known as sappers, were essential to the running of the war. Without them, other branches of the Allied Forces would have found it difficult to cross the muddy and shell-ravaged ground of the Western Front. Their responsibilities included constructing the lines of defence, temporary bridges, tunnels and trenches, observation posts, roads, railways, communication lines, buildings of all kinds, showers and bathing facilities, and other material and mechanical solutions to the problems associated with fighting in all theatres.

In civilian life he had been a postman.  He managed to get himself blown up by an exploding shell in 1918 leaving a permanent knee injury.

davidchristison3a

David Christison was in 14th Field Company Engineers, attached to the 5th Division AIF which did indeed take part in Polygon Wood in 1917. His injury came in April 1918.

Initially, the division was stationed on the Suez Canal. In June 1916 it moved to France, taking over part of the “nursery” sector near Armentieres. There it became involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July. In October it joined the First, Second and Fourth Divisions on the Somme around Flers.

In March 1917 a flying column of the Fifth Division pursued of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line, capturing Bapaume. In May the Division relieved the First Division in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, holding the breach thus gained against furious counterattacks. In September it managed to turn an allied defeat into a major victory at the Battle of Polygon Wood.

In March 1918 the Fifth Division was rushed to the Somme region to help stem the German Offensive. There it guarded the vital Somme River bridges. In April it counterattacked at Villers Bretonneux, recovering the town.  

The Fifth Division fought in the Battles of Hamel in July and Amiens in August. In September it forced the Somme River at Peronne and fought on to the Hindenburg Line.

Ken Whitfield arrived in England in December 1917. He has part of a reinforcement for the 3rd Battalion AIF. However, his service with the 3rd Battalion was cut short somewhat by illness. He returned to Australia invalided quite late in 1919.

ken7

More from the world of the Postal Survey

First, just to make it plain, I do not believe that every opponent of same-sex marriage is a homophobe. Indeed there are examples of same-sex couples who will themselves choose NO in the current Postal Survey. Nor do I think that Israel Folau has no right to his views compared with David Pocock, to confine ourselves to Rugby players for the moment. Naturally, though, I do hope that there are many more David Pococks in the Postal Survey!

Second, I commend careful reading of Legal Eagle’s thoroughly thoughtful post.

But when it comes to the NO case as it now so often appears, I still cannot but see it as other than rampant Chicken Little. Or slippery slope-ism. That the question is essentially a simple one seems to get lost. See my previous post for more.

I particularly can’t get – though John Howard can – the argument on religious liberty. Legal Eagle helps.

It’s true to say (as some of my Yes vote advocate friends have said) that religious freedom and freedom of speech are different questions from the question that is being asked in the survey. Part of the problem stems from the fact that we don’t even know what we’re voting on – they won’t prepare a Bill until we vote on whether we want the law or not. But I think that any provision for same-sex marriage should make it clear that it will not force religious groups to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. Some of my religious friends are worried about what the position may become if a Yes vote stands, and cite the example of the Tasmanian pastor and preacher who have been the subject of complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. They fear this is the beginning of a greater trend. They are concerned that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will mean anti-discrimination legislation can be used to make religious people suppress their views, and to have to conduct same-sex marriages against their will. And then, of course, there’s the services cases (involving flowers or cakes for same-sex marriages).

As an aside, I have never understood why a person would wish to force a reluctant florist or baker to provide for a same-sex wedding. If I were in that position, I would rather not give the service provider money, nor have them anywhere near my wedding. But this may be something to do with my private law background – as a general principle of law, courts are usually unwilling to specifically enforce contracts for services because of the coercive nature of such relief (see eg, JC Williamson Ltd v Lukey (1931) 45 CLR 282, 293 (Starke J), 297–98 (Dixon J); Byrne v Australian Airlines Ltd (1995) 185 CLR 410, 428 (Brennan CJ, Dawson and Toohey JJ)). The rationale for the rule with regard to contracts for services is that it’s inappropriate to force parties who don’t get along any more to work together. And I guess that’s a greater point. As my co-blogger Skepticlawyer has pointed out, you can’t use the law to force people to like you or accept you.

In today’s news we read Church cancels wedding because bride and groom supported gay marriage on Facebook.

Presbyterian ministers and churchgoers are under clear directions to oppose same-sex marriage. Mr Wilson, who is also moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, published a blog post committing the church to the “no” case and calling on attendees to campaign actively.

“There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this,” Mr Wilson wrote.

However, other church sources suggested the Ballarat experience was uncommon. Darren Middleton, convenor of the Church and Nation committee and a Geelong minister, said it was the first such case he had encountered.

“This is a decision for individual ministers to make. My guess is most probably would have let the wedding go ahead,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s not normally a requirement to get married that you subscribe to particular views. I would want to talk to them about their views … but that wouldn’t be a bar to them getting married. That’s a separate issue in my mind.”…

On Facebook Trevor Khan MLC NSW (National Party) has commented:

So, let’s be clear:
1) This demonstrates that churches, now, have an absolute discretion (enshrined in the Marriage Act) as to who they chose to marry, and
2) Neither side has a mortgage on “crazy”.

My background, by the way, is Presbyterian.

And here is something else we can well do without.

8942748-3x2-700x467

That is  former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s godson, bashed during an argument about same-sex marriage.

Now some personal notes. I am not TELLING people how to answer the survey. VOTE is apparently not the right word, by the way. But I am hoping that the majority do choose YES because, as I keep saying, it is the right thing to do. First there are all those same-sex couples I have known, not all of whom would have opted for marriage personally, though I suspect all would have supported the right of those who did so choose to have that option. Second there is my own relationship commencing in 1990 — yes, 27 years ago — with M. We did live together for over ten years, and still mean a great deal to one another. M was at my side at my mother’s funeral in 1996. One memory is of M sitting ensconced with my Aunt Beth at Kay and Roy’s place in Sutherland after that funeral. M’s own mother and younger sister have passed away this year.

Another highlight was the following year, when M, who is from Shanghai, gained his Australian citizenship. William Yang recorded it.

ex226_010

Fast forward to 2012 here in Wollongong:

P2240238

Please! Ignore the Chicken Littles on “freedom of speech”, “freedom of religion”, and weirdness like the Revenant of Oz and her nonsense about not being able to call your Mum and Dad Mum and Dad! Choose a kinder Australia when you mark your survey form!

Flowers and grief: for my mother

Recently I posted about Vermont Street, Sutherland, where I lived from 1952-1955, and again in 1963-4. The circumstances of that first sojourn are well expressed in my mother’s words from the 1960s:

Then in 1945 the guns of War ceased. We hoped so vainly they had stopped for all time–and the father came home. The next few years held struggle of a different kind for the young weary parents whose lives, like so many, had been so deviously interrupted. To return to the normal, the everyday, does not perhaps seem difficult, but it is so very difficult, as so many found. Everything had altered, values and concepts had changed. One thing sustained this young family–the love of man for woman, of woman for man, of man and woman for their children. To hope, to pray, with faith, that some day, sometime, there would be a better world for all to live in. Again the years went swiftly–two years, four years, ordinary troubles, measles, mumps, broken arms, children’s hurts to mend–the guiding, the helping, the encouraging, the children growing, the joys, the laughter.

The babe of 1940 [my sister Jeanette] was now a slight, fair, lovable schoolgirl of twelve. So proud were the parents of this so dear a child who held the promise of the future in her clear blue eyes. The dreams they had–the dreams she had–such lovely dreams, such beautiful golden dreams.

The father and the mother bought a house, their first “own” home. Just an ordinary house in an ordinary street, in an ordinary suburb, in an Australian city. A house with room enough for the children to grow in to live in, to be “home” in all its true and good meaning. Moving day came with all its pressures, its turmoils, but with happiness in the hearts. The unseen figure in the shadows moved closer and struck, taking with it back to the shadows the beloved child, the child with so much promise, so many dreams–the child whose very presence had helped the mother’s war-torn soul through the years and whose sparkling nature had helped the father through the rehabilitation period. The beloved blue eyes were closed to this world forever.

So we were all grieving in that place, I see now more clearly: my father, brother, and myself no less than my mother. I can recall nightmares often involving death, and odd little memorials made of pebbles that I would make in various obscure parts of the garden.

My mother took to growing flowers, even winning a prize in the local flower show for her pansies or sweet peas or violets — I don’t quite recall which. Her flowers were those of that time — no natives among them. That came later when we moved to Kirrawee and had waratahs and wattles and bottlebrush in abundance.

m

Sweet peas

iceland-poppy

Iceland poppies

xviolets2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Q4MN98pOT1

Violets

Pansies-Uncropped-used-for-TV-Autumn-2011-568x322

Pansies

Phlox_Paniculata_2583393a

Phlox

Did you know that Iceland poppies have nothing to do with Iceland?