Port Melbourne War Memorial

This is the snap that I took of the war memorial on that wet and grey ANZAC centenary in 2015. (Not a great photo but I liked having the people in it to show how bleak a day it was!) Our PMHPS red and blue flowers can be seen. My Dad served in the air force in WWII (he was a warrant officer in 24 Squadron and worked mostly as a rear gunner but finished the war as a trainer) and so ANZAC Days have many memories for me because Dad would always head off to the march and come home with his secrets.

Dad was born in Scotland and his father fought in the trenches in WWI and was bayonetted in the stomach by a German soldier which haunted him as well (and was probably why he refused to sign Dad’s enlistment papers so that Dad waited until he was eighteen and could sign up himself!). The greatest discovery for me was only about three years ago when I was looking for some history about my mother’s family via the Trove website. My mother’s maiden name was Garton and when we moved here I noticed that there was a Garton Street and I wanted to see if Mum was related in any way to a James Garton who owned hotels in Port and was a Councillor – I couldn’t easily find a link but I found something far more precious. My mother’s uncle, Sydney Garton, had written a letter to his mother that was printed in the Brunswick & Coburg Leader in December 1916 where he excitedly said he’d been awarded a DCM for “doing nothing” and “simply (keeping) my head and (doing) my duty when the shells were flying about us”. He says the awards aren’t “too common” and his unit, the 14th, has one VC (Lieutenant A. Jacka) and Syd is the third DCM. It was only when I was watching the news and saw a report of the centenary of the battle at Fromelles that I suddenly remembered that Syd was one of Jacka’s mob and probably earned his medal at Pozieres as he was given his ribbon on the 6th October 1916. You may wonder why he received the medal. He was a sergeant and, according to the newspaper article, he was ordered to take twenty men out into the open under heavy shellfire to a trench ahead. The Germans were entrenched only a short distance from them but they braved the fire. Some of the men didn’t make it but Syd managed to emerge unscathed. Sydney said he couldn’t get his head around this thought of the DCM and said “Wonders will never cease!” He returned home from the war but died a year later “from the gas” – according to family stories.

My Dad died a few weeks before we moved to Port – he couldn’t understand why we were moving here as he said “What are you going there for? The place is too rough!” – how times change – but memories don’t. When Dad was dying, he kept calling out orders to his men; his own Dad died saying “get that Hun out of there!” Who knows what Syd Garton thought.

I’m glad there’s a memorial just down the road – we need to remember sometimes.

Sue Leong

 

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