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Slouch Hat Soldiers: Generations at War - Book Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
Published April 23rd 2014
Tells the stories of members of a family who went to war

Local writer, Bob Jarrad had little idea that finding an old Seppuku Harri Karri knife in his dad's fishing box and sometime later reading his grandfather's World War l diary would inspire him to research further into his family's history. What followed was him learning from letters, photos and diaries from the war years about 19 of his family members, who served in various theatres of war with Australian forces during World War l, World War ll and Vietnam. His discussions with some of his family helped him to realise that those 19 family members who served were like so many other thousands of Australian men and women who served Australia during times of war.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Bob Jarrad with his father, Cyril Jarrad

Medal and Nightmares (Extract)
for Grandpa Jarrad

Our sodden boots squelch
skin deep in muddy slush
from waterlogged trench floors
while the incessant bombardment
pulsates its deadly beat
through our shell-shocked bodies.

If we are lucky
and see this senseless war through
we'll be released
with medals
and with nightmares
to remind us of our darkest hours.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Harri Karri knife. Artist: Barry Spicer

The Forgotten (Extract)
for my aunt, Valmai Isabella Harding, 14 Signals Unit, RAAF

Give a thought to women
Who birthed healthy sons,
human ammunition
given up to war.

Give a thought to women
on ANZAC Day,
on every day.
When you remember sacrifices,
remember them.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Australian Army Slouch Hat. Artist: Barry Spicer.

Writing about war can be very tricky without making the mistake of glorifying killing, death, suffering and violence. At the same time, writing poetry is not everyone's ideal choice of literature. But, Bob Jarrad set out on a journey. He researched the Australian War records of his relatives and discovered various surprises about family members, which encouraged him to write about their untold stories through his poems.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Postcard from the war years.

Hidden Secrets (Extract)

The damn lid won't open -
then persistence prevails.
A battered tin box
reveals its' secret of
medals, ribbons, half obscuring
a red, cloth-covered, musty smelling diary.

I carefully turn its tired pages.
Do you know what this is?
No reply from my father.
It's your Dad's war diary
from 1918.
It holds few entries,
just good news from home,
his son's birth and christening,
and service pay records.
In memoranda: a list of names
and numbers
send coldness through my veins.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Opening next meal. Artist: Barry Spicer

Mouquet Boneyard (Extract)
for William East K I A Mouquet Farm, 4th September, 1916.

Five-nines and Jack Johnsons are murdering our mates.
They hurl towards earth, walls and men tear to pieces.
Profanity flows as we dig out our escape.
We burrow in from hot lead he unleashes.
Men shovelling the dirt like terrified wombats
as the Howitzer howls and shell bursts light the sky.
Mushrooming skulls from past warriors of combat
are uncovered from where they were buried or died.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
William East KIA Mouquet farm 4 Sept. 1916

His journey involved him learning how some had fought and died on the Western Front, at the Somme, and Mouquet Farm; others had survived horrendous experiences on the Burma Railway, in Changi Prison and fighting in the Battle of Balikpapan in Borneo; or burrowing as a tunnel rat in the underground tunnels in Vietnam. Jarrad's research, which included reading service records and matching the details with various factual books that recorded moving and powerful accounts of Australian bravery, courage and mateship, gave him further understanding of what Australian troops experienced. While some family members who took part in the fighting were prepared to talk about what they went through, others understandably kept the unimaginable horrors and incredible experiences of endurance, camaraderie and mateship they encountered, to themselves.

Stretcher Bearers (Extract)
They dart across the wasteland,
amongst dead & wounded,
in search of injured comrades
and fallen foe.
Sometimes they seek alone,
the true hero in No Man's land,
looking for a fallen mate.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Royal Australian Artillery Hat Badge. Artist: Barry Spicer.

See Yer Later (Extract)
for my father, Cyril Jarrad, who was at
Balikpapan in Borneo, 1945

Sounds made us twitchy.
A leaf rustled
and before I could flinch,
a hand slid across my Aussie lapel badges,
scared the living daylights out of me.
Hello Aussie, a voice rasped,
then shot through like a Bondi tram:
an Indian Gurkha, silent and deadly.
Thank God he was on our side.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Cyril Jarrad, served at Balikpapan, Borneo, 1945

Slouch Hat Soldiers; Generations at War, gives us much to think and feel about war, and those who served in the forces. Jarrad's poems not only focus on Australian servicemen who served in World War l, World War ll and the Vietnam War, but they also point to the contribution to the war effort made by women. His poetry reveals his skill, sincerity, empathy, insight and respect as he reflects upon the times before, during and after war.

Identical Wounds (Extract)

In World War One they suffered Shell Shock.
In World War Two it was Battle Fatigue.
Viet Vets suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,
just different terms – same disability.
So give a thought for those brave soldiers
who put their lives on the line in war.
Prepared to defend and fight for freedom,
not knowing the secret scars they bore.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Gunship. Artist: Barry Spicer.

Throughout the book there are drawings by Internationally renowned Australian Military Artist, Barry Spicer, who was honoured with the title of 'Official Artist to Australian Army Aviation' in 2008, and has recently been named as the Regimental Artist for the Army's 1st Armoured Regiment, after completing a number of related paintings. One of Barry's paintings recently appeared on the cover of the newly released book covering the history of the 1st Armoured Regiment, Contact Tank…Wait Out.

Copies of Slouch Hat Soldiers; Generations at War, can be purchased on-line for $38.00. This includes delivery within Australia. Alternatively, purchasers can send a cheque for $38.00 per book, made payable to Echos Downunder, including their name and shipping address to:
Echos Downunder, PO Box 191, St. Agnes South Aust. 5097.
Bob Jarrad is donating part of the proceeds from the sale of the book to Legacy.

Slouch Hat Soldiers
Bob Jarrad speaking at his book launch at Tea Tree Gully Library.

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Phone: 82512753
Cost: $38.00 per book. This includes delivery anywhere within Australia.
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