So many anniversaries!

The true biggie has been the 500 years since upstart priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door, an event that truly changed Europe and the world. See the rather irreverent post Seven reasons Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation still matter today.

On a lesser scale, but very significant in Australia and the Pacific, we have coming up in a few days the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign.

But the one that has grabbed attention lately has been the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba. Quite a story, that. I have among my eBooks this — and am about to read it.
pg54964.cover.medium

It was first published in 1921, with an introduction by Sir Harry Chauvel.

It gives me great pleasure to write a few words of introduction to Lieut.-Col. Preston’s History of the Desert Mounted Corps, which I had the honour to command. In writing this History Lieut.-Col. Preston has done a service to his country which I am sure will be fully appreciated, particularly, perhaps, by those who served in the Corps, and who feel that the part they played in the Great War is but little known to the general public….

Lieut.-Col. Preston is well qualified to undertake the work. First of all in command of one of my finest Horse Batteries, and subsequently as C.R.A. of the Australian Mounted Division, he was often in touch with my Staff, being constantly employed on reconnaissance duties, in which he was peculiarly expert. He served throughout the whole of the operations of which he writes….

The Desert Mounted Corps was composed of Australians, New Zealanders, British Yeomanry, and Territorial Horse Artillery and Indian Cavalry, with French Cavalry added for the last operations; and it says much for the loyalty of all, and the mutual confidence in each other, that the whole worked so harmoniously and efficiently to one end….

In yesterday’s commemoration in Israel our PM gave a rather peculiar speech, I thought,  rather all over the place when compared with the speech of the New Zealand Governor-General. Israel’s PM Netanyahu spoke forcefully — have to award him a tick for oratory — but also delivered propaganda by the bucket load. In the course of his speech he mentioned that 4,000 years ago Abraham had been at that very spot — Beersheba. What he didn’t mention is that this hardly counts as an actual historical event, but oh the rather troubling weight that Jews, Christians and Muslims load onto this legendary figure!

Ironic too. I suggest you go to my post Before Abraham was, we are…

And the semi-mythical Abraham? Well, “according to Jewish tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE).”

Way more impressive than that Australian Museum Timeline, impressive as it is, has been the ABC’s First Footprints series, which ended last Sunday night. It took three episodes before we got even close to the recent history – when Abraham, Moses and all that lot were swanning around one patch of the planet far away from here. That fourth episode punctured quite a few of our cherished beliefs about agriculture, hunter-gatherers, and civilisation.  It also included Papua New Guinea in the Greater Australia which once existed before sea levels rose around 7,000 years before Abraham. There was much reference to Bill Gammage’s seminal The Biggest Estate on Earth (2011).

The irony, if you like, is that among those brave Light Horsemen in 1917 were several descended from those people whose roots go back tens of thousands of years prior to the incursion of whatever individuals or groups might correspond to the story of Abraham in Beersheba. See ‘Not even classed as citizens’: Remembering the Indigenous soldiers at Beersheba.

Rather puts into some perspective the whole Abrahamic saga, very significant as it of course is given the good and ill it has contributed to this present world.

Finally, another picture relating to my last two posts. This is from Sydney High in 2014, a Remembrance Day ceremony with the school assembled in Moore Park. Quite an impressive photograph.Screenshot (125)

Advertisements

Yesterdays — 1944 and March 2017

I mentioned on Facebook that I managed to speak on the phone to my brother Ian in Devonport Hospital. A nurse took the call and then passed the phone to Ian. Given the circumstances I didn’t talk long, the real object being to let him know I was aware of what has been happening and was thinking of him. He thanked me.

What I didn’t say on Facebook is that his son in Lightning Ridge and his daughter in Engadine had both told me to try to speak to him — he doesn’t always answer the phone — as it may possibly be the last chance to do so. If a new course of antibiotics started yesterday is effective, that may change. If not…

I was at times teary yesterday, but fortunately not when speaking to Ian.

I further posted on Facebook:

Document: 14390 Cpl. Whitfield J. N.
Group 833
RAAF
Pacific
16-2-45

My Darling Wife

I came to work this morning thinking it was just another day, another hot steaming day, after a terrific thunderstorm last night. About nine o’clock a chap came in with some demands that had to be attended to and on dating them the realisation struck me, this was no ordinary day to me, but a very special one, the anniversary of the day when I made my very bestest pal in all the world mine for keeps, for worse or better. You notice I put the “worse” first, because I am sure many, many happy days lie ahead for us. Yes, we have had more than our share of worries & I have at times very selfishly added to them, sometimes quite unintentionally, because there really wasn’t any need for you to worry at all. I’m a bit of a tease really… Anyway dearest one I will try to do as you wish me to in everything. I have caused you enough heartaches. I can’t always help this of course, but I fully intend to try and make up for any short comings I may have. I can never repay the debt I owe you for giving me three such lovely children. I love them very dearly, and am exceedingly proud of their nice appearance & manner… .https://ninglunbooks.wordpress.com/…/about-the-whitfields-2/

warfamily

Back row: Aunt Ruth, my mother Jean, Uncle Neil (on leave from the RAAF), Aunt Beth

Front row: me, my sister Jeanette, my brother Ian

Probably 1944. Creased because my father carried it with him in Port Moresby 1945.

Darwin 1942-3

The things that were happening as I prepared to enter this world!

telegram

That telegram from my father arrived soon after I was born. Meanwhile, Japanese air raids were continuing in our north, though the main one was 75 years ago today.

  • 20 Jun 1943 – Raid No. 55.
    Three killed and eleven wounded.
    Winnellie area hit, also RAAF.

  • 28 Jun 1943 – Raid No. 56.
    Nil casualties.
    Three huts damaged.

  • 30 Jun 1943 – Raid No. 57.
    Two wounded.
    Aircraft and vehicles damaged.

  • 06 Jul 1943 – Raid No. 58.
    Nil casualties.
    Four aircraft damaged.

  • 13 Aug 1943 – Raids No. 59 & 60.
    Nil casualties.
    Nil damage.

Today’s Sun-Herald: Bombing of Darwin: 75th anniversary brings new recognition of attacks.

Australia marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin on Sunday but for generations the country was kept in the dark about the true dimensions of the Japanese attack.

At 9.58am on February 19, 1942, just four days after the supposedly impregnable British garrison in Singapore collapsed, Japanese bombers escorted by Zero fighters appeared in the skies above Darwin…

Military historian Tom Lewis’ new book, The Empire Strikes South Japan’s Air War Against Northern Australia 1942-45,  reveals new information about the war.

He told Fairfax Media that contrary to enduring claims there had been 64 raids in the Northern Territory, his research of Japanese war records found 77, while 208 enemy combat flights were carried out in northern Australia.

“In wartime, some truths get lost, viewed through different prisms, changed or forgotten,” he said.

darwin_648x365_2198078453-hero 178689-darwin-bombing-1942
See also The bombing of Darwin – Fact sheet 195.

On 19 February 1942 mainland Australia came under attack for the first time when Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin. The two attacks, which were planned and led by the commander responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor ten weeks earlier, involved 188 attack aircraft which were launched from four Japanese aircraft-carriers in the Timor Sea, and a second raid of 54 land-based bombers. The carrier battle group consisted additionally of two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, seven destroyers, three submarines, and two other heavy cruisers on distant cover.

My 1977: Alexandra Road, Glebe

15078581_10211401224136102_7961353461393643886_n1

In 1977-1978 I was seconded to the Faculty of Education at the University of Sydney, along with an old friend Richard Stratford. We were immediately responsible to Ken Watson, a name still well-known in English teaching circles.

The Ken Watson Address

To honour a remarkable educator, the ETA has named the keynote address of the annual conference for Ken Watson who has supported and inspired more than a generation of English teachers. The address focuses on an area of particular significance for the time and this collection of keynotes will provide a record of key concerns for the English teaching profession.

A colleague was the wonderful Roslyn Arnold.

Roslyn was an academic in the Faculty of Education and Social Work from 1974 until 2004 and was the recipient of a University of Sydney Teaching Excellence Award. She was subsequently Dean of Education, Head of School at the University of Tasmania and Professor of Strategic Partnerships.

I had the temporary rank of “Lecturer” (with parking privileges) and an office in the basement of Fisher Library, under that big stack on the right:

Fisher_Library,_University_of_Sydney

But it is where I lived that I wish to focus on now – Glebe Point, my first taste of inner city living. The house in Alexandra Road Glebe belonged to the sister of one of my Class of 1974 students at Illawarra Grammar, whose husband was captain of a patrol boat in the north. I was house-sitting, basically. But what a place!

61

That’s the house in 2004, but little has changed. I was in the right-hand one next to the block of flats. Next door: Jorge Campano, a Spanish guitarist so good that when he practised I just turned off everything and listened. He is still at it. This is from 2012:

The family is in the business too these days.

‘What You’re Doing To Me’ is the new solo single from Cristian Campano, frontman of Sydney garage rock outfit Food Court.

With elements of emotive ’60s balladry, a soaring string arrangement and hypnotic Flamenco guitar, the track is a cathartic outpouring from the Sydney-based artist. After winning the Seed Fund songwriting competition ‘It’s All About The Song’, Cristian headed to Alberts Studios in Sydney where he teamed up with acclaimed producer Tony Buchen (The Preatures, Andy Bull, Montaigne, Bluejuice, The Church).

The song is a family affair, featuring Cristian’s Granada-born father Jorge Campano (an acclaimed Spanish classical/Flamenco guitarist) and his brother Adam Campano (Pretend Eye) on bass. Food Court’s Nic Puertolas played drums, while Buchen drafted in a local string quartet to bring his arrangements to life.

Over the road were a scientist, a doctor, and the man on the right in this cartoon:

-Two_Georges-_cartoon

A 1932 cartoon depicting George Hele (left) and George Borwick, umpiring partners in the Bodyline series

This was in George Borwick’s house:

100th-Century-Ball

That’s the ball with which Donald Bradman scored his 100th Test Match century, now in the Bradman Museum.

At the conclusion of the innings the ball was souvenired by match umpire George Borwick. Bradman and Borwick knew one another well with Borwick having regularly umpired First Class and Test matches in which he played from the early 1930’s, including the infamous Bodyline series. At the end of the match, Borwick sought to present Bradman with the ball, but he refused, signing the ball instead and insisting that Borwick keep it.

George Borwick later had the ball mounted on a silver plate and bakelite trophy with the utilitarian inscription “Pres.by / Don Bradman / to / Geo. Borwick / 100th 100 / 1947”

George Borwick proudly kept it on his mantle piece in his Glebe home for many years on display. Later it passed on to his son and then his grandson David who recently brought it to the museum.

In giving the ball, David explained that he was seeking the best home for his grandfather’s prized possession. He had met Don Bradman through his grandfather as a child and spoke of the respect the two men had for one another.

He recalled Bradman, Lindsay Hassett and Keith Miller returning to the family home with George Borwick after an early conclusion to a Sydney Test match in 1969. While waiting for his grandmother to cook a meal of rabbit with white sauce and carrots, the four, together with young David, headed into the back garden for a game of cricket which progressed smoothly until Keith Miller drove the ball into Mrs Borwick’s prized roses!

bw_photo_11105_5039305

So I lived opposite George Borwick, the cricket umpire in Sydney back in the 1930s and heard a lot about that from him, and about life in Glebe going back forty or fifty years.

Neighbours on my side of the road were John and Nan Waterford and their family. John Waterford was a former prisoner in Changi and on the Burma Railway, with no hatred for the Japanese. He and his family opened my eyes to politics. I met famous Labor politician Peter Baldwin through them later on. Glebe politics has always been colourful.

I told something of John’s story in 2007.

When I lived in Glebe in the late 1970s one of my neighbours, very hospitable folk whom I came to know well, was John Waterford, father of the Canberra journalist Jack Waterford. He was a survivor of the Burma Railway and wrote up his experiences. Not only did John tell me about all this but I have also read his memoir Footprints.

Footprints by Pte. John Waterford (2/18 Bn)

A story of the experiences and philosophy of a young country lad, as he was, when he enlisted, who was lucky not to be in the firing line on those occasions, when his Unit had its two most important encounters with the Nips, in the Nithsdale and adjacent Joo Lye Estates at Mersing and on Singapore Island. As a P.O.W. was sent to Blakang Mati, but had need of hospitalisation for appendix operation, which sent him back to Roberts Barracks and therefore made him available for selection for “H” Force, when it went up on the “Railway”. A tribute to Father Marsden and Major Fagan.

He has been unlucky to have been stricken with multiple sclerosis. He turned his hand to writing as a type of a therapy, because of his physical handicap. His first effort was devoted to the research and writing of his Family History.

He was encouraged then by his brothers and sisters to write this book, “Footprints”. It is only a 54 page paper-back and the cost of printing it was met by the family.

John is long gone, but what I recall most is how little he hated the Japanese. Indeed, when I knew him one of his major points was his belief in the need for good relations with Japan, and China. The last chapter of his book is about that. He and his family were originally from out Coonamble way; they were also early champions of Aboriginal land rights and reconciliation and great supporters of the work of Fred Hollows. (I do get peeved when the Right appropriate all this tradition, forgetting even such elementary facts as the actual politics of Simpson: the Man with the Donkey at Gallipolli.) I notice John’s story is retold in Legacies of Our Fathers: World War II Prisoners of the Japanese – their Sons and Daughters Tell their Stories ed. C. Newman (2005).

Related: My latest very odd article published.

What was I up to in December 2011?

Entries from Monthly Archives: December 2011

World AIDS Day and my circle…

Posted on December 1, 2011 by Neil (abridged)

On 11 September 2001 I posted:

11 Sep 2001

Thoughts of a survivor: Guest article by Ian Smith, the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong

It is difficult to give advice to any one regarding HIV/AIDS. However here are a few thoughts from a long-term survivor.

Do not panic. This is easy to say, but the best thing you can do, is ignore the virus as much as possible, within reason. If you are on medication, never miss a dose. Always have safe sex to avoid passing the virus to someone else, and keep alcohol and other recreational drugs down. By this I do not mean give everything up, just try cutting down. Think, “Do I really need that E tonight?” If you do, take only half, or less. This has the advantage of saving money. It also has the advantage of not damaging your immune system as much…

Today there is an excellent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Ori Golan, a freelance journalist and volunteer with the absolutely admirable Ankali Project.

… Dr Lynn Pulliam, writing in the Lancet, predicts up to 30 per cent of patients infected with HIV will develop a debilitating dementia. HIV is the most common cause of dementia in people under the age of 40, Dr Lachlan Gray at the Burnet Institute says, and recent studies have suggested milder neurocognitive impairment could be as high as 50 per cent of the infected population.

Many people with HIV are leading normal lives, their viral load undetectable and their physical appearance excellent. This, ironically, is part of the problem. In an interview shortly before his death, the British AIDS activist, Cass Mann, put it like this: ”The greatest disservice AIDS charities pay to [HIV-positive] men today is to present images of them as healthy, buffed, gym bunnies with glossy beautiful bodies having great lives, climbing mountains, partying in Sydney and looking beautiful. If they showed people in hospices dying of dementia or people with lipodystrophy that would stop them in their tracks.”

A recent study by Dr Lucette Cysique, of the Department of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital, predicts the number of people with HIV dementia will surpass 2600 by 2030. The toll on their family and friends is tremendous. Moreover, Dr Cysique says the annual cost of care will increase from $29 million in 2009 to $53 million in 2030.

We can be proud as we don our red ribbons this World AIDS Day that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic…

There is no room for complacency. AIDS is still an incurable condition. We must act to curb it; we must reach out to this new generation so they know how to protect themselves. There is no time to waste. The global fight against AIDS is not over.

And The Dowager Empress is no longer with us either.

At The Empress’s Wake, Midnight Shift Hotel

And we have all of us mourned the passing of so many others.

pict0928

malcolmapr

Back to 1944–or even earlier

Posted on December 3, 2011 by Neil

FotoSketcher - ian1

That’s my brother Ian going to school. The photo is in Auburn Street Sutherland – yes, a dirt road then. The house is the McNamara place, opposite ours. Roy Mac had a slit trench air-raid shelter. If the point of this pic is my brother’s first day in “big school” then it would be around 1941, but it is certainly no later than 1944.

FotoSketcher - warfamily

Now that one, it seems to me, is 1944-45, but very likely 1945. In the left panel my Aunt Ruth Christison, mother of Ray who has lately commented here. I am in front of her, no older than 2 years which was 1945. The centre panel has my mother Jean, my Uncle Neil Christison, on leave no doubt from the RAAF at the time, and my sister Jeanette (1940-1952).  I am named after Uncle Neil, who is still with us. On the right my Aunt Beth Christison, later Beth Heard, and my brother Ian.

845153-spitfire

See also Anzac Day scans.

nov44

November 1944

PB280473

Even today you can see how close the bush, especially The Royal National Park, is to Auburn Street. We certainly would have seen and smelled those fires. I can’t remember the 1944 ones, but I sure remember some bad ones in the late 40s and early 50s, including one where the whole horizon was fire and smoke.

My Uncle Keith may have been among the servicemen fighting the 1944 fire as I believe around that time he was stationed at Loftus.

South African War and my family…

Posted on December 6, 2011 by Neil

Sorry, Sirdan! I am sure the Nel family were in this too somewhere…

nswmr1

That’s 1 NSW Mounted Rifles. My rather roguish great-grandfather John H Christison was one of them.

NEW SOUTH WALES RIFLES/1ST NSW MOUNTED RIFLES

  • Absorbed first contingent units that became A and E Squadrons NSW Mounted Rifles
  • Original strength: 405
  • Subunits: three mounted rifle squadrons (later numbered B, C, and D squadrons), five after absorbing A and E squadrons
  • Commanding officer: Lt Col. G. C. Knight
  • Left for South Africa (B, C, and D squadrons only): 17 January 1900 on Southern Cross
  • Service: February 1900 – March 1901 in Free State, Transvaal, and western Cape Colony including charge at Diamond Hill (12 June 1900); absorbed A Squadron NSW Mounted Rifles in March 1900, 1st WA Mounted Infantry April 1900, and E Squadron NSW Mounted Rifles in May 1900
  • Fatal casualties (B, C, and D squadrons only): 10 killed or died of wounds, 13 died of disease
  • Decorations (B, C, and D squadrons only): three DSOs (A. J. Bennett, M. A. Hilliard, F. L. Learmonth), two DCMs (L. F. Hayward, F. W. P. Rudd), one Queen’s Scarf (A. H. Du Frayer)
  • Returned to Australia: 29 April 1901 (B, C, and D squadrons only)

procession

SA_MedalsSee also the source of the pictures above: About the Boer War.

My cousin Ray Christison notes:

From the late 1970s I made an effort of researching the life of John Hampton Christison. I have a listing of his addresses from 1880 until 1889. He seemed to fall off the radar after the divorce in 1891 and then he pops up again in the Boer War. He enlisted in the 2nd [sic] NSW Mounted Rifles and embarked from Sydney in 1899. Interestingly one of his companions was Peter Hancock, the Bathurst farrier who was shot with Breaker Morant in 1902. When he enlisted he gave his address as Regent Street, Mittagong – the home of his parents David and Catherine. I have John’s campaign medal from the Boer War which has bars for Witterbergen, Diamond Hill, Johannesburg, Driefontein & Cape Colony. He was wounded at Rhenoster Poort. When John returned from South Africa he obtained a job on the West Australian Government Railways and eventually rose to the rank of Station Master.

Fascinating stuff. I really had no idea, but thanks to the rather wonderful thread on my recent post Mainly family I now do.

00 Overview

war graves

Update

My cousin Ray has written an excellent post on this. “I just may begin blogging his biography,” he says of John H. Please do!

My last coachee

Posted on December 15, 2011 by Neil

“i never thought to see the day where mr  …. would get a band 6 in english. f*** the world bitches! i is da bestes” – Facebook yesterday morning.

275242_1569664042_7412274_n

That’s him. He is a guy who at 12 or 13 was seriously being compared to Roger Federer. He came my way because, after spending just about all of Years 7 to 10 on the international tennis circuit, he arrived at high school Year 11 having never actually written an essay… He was sent to me for help in 2010, and I did what I could up until I moved down here to Wollongong in August-September 2010. I had hopes he would do all right, and I am really chuffed that he has!

Indeed: 90%+ in Advanced English and a mention in the honours list in today’s paper. Smile He is of Iranian/Filipino background.

Afternoon at Five Islands Brewery Wollongong

Posted on December 15, 2011 by Neil

FotoSketcher - PC150521

PC150511

Oh the humanity! Three exhibitions at Wollongong City Gallery

Posted on December 30, 2011 by Neil

The first exhibition is Generations.

Did you know the Wollongong City Gallery is currently exhibiting work by one of Australia’s most respected contemporary artists?

Hossein Valamanesh was born in Iran but immigrated to Australia in the early 1970s, and now lives in Adelaide. His work is displayed in pretty much every major gallery in the country, including the art galleries of South Australia, West Australia, and the National Gallery in Canberra.

And he has a couple of works on show in the Generations exhibition in Wollongong until February 26th.

One is a six metre ladder attached to a high ceiling with a round mirror at the top.

“The image of the ladder I’ve used for many years but this work was in regards to what is reality and what is dream and how long is a piece of string,” he said. “It’s like an escape hatch you can’t reach but it’s just close enough to feel like you can.”

The work is part of an exhibition that showcases artists with a cultural background outside Australia.

His son Nasseim is a film maker and also has a video piece in Generations.

r869063_8433344

Story and picture from the ABC.

The second exhibition is of objects and statements by former refugees and migrants:Collections of Hopes and Dreams. Very moving. I propose to return and spend much longer with these things.

PC300615

The third exhibition is Local: Current 2011. Among the items are these beautiful objects in glass by South Coast Koori artist Noel Lonesborough.

PC300616

Go on upstairs and there is not only the beautiful former Council Chamber but also some first rate examples of Aboriginal art.

PC300620