I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.

Monday, 25 April 2016

"He gave all that man could give - His joys,his hopes, his priceless youth -"

Ingham may have been a small town in a peaceful valley, just a brief stopping point on the road between major centres, north and south, yet it too did not escape the scourge of war. No sooner had one generation of children time to grow up in peace and sunshine after World War 1 than Australia was, once again, at war. Such a child born in peace and destined for a brutal death at Bougainville was Hubert Henry Swarbrick, son of Hubert and Catherine (Fanny) Swarbrick. He was one of 45 young men who were never to return to the Herbert River Valley from the battlefields of World War 2.
Each ANZAC day families across Australia recall their fallen. These were young people whose lives were still ahead of them, whose hopes and dreams were tragically stolen from them.  They are remembered because families were left behind to mourn and stories and photographs have been passed down the generations.
The primary store keepers of memories are often mothers, and those who mourn most keenly are undoubtedly mothers. Catherine sent two sons to battle, one, Hubert died two months before war’s end, beheaded, as family legend has it, by a Japanese soldier. Another son, returned safely from the war, but died all too prematurely from war related injuries.
A treasured family photograph of her shows her wearing her Mothers’ and Widows’ Badge and Female Relative Badge. The first was issued to mothers’ and widows’ of those killed in action, or of those who died of wounds or from other causes while on service, or as a result of service. The Female Relative Badge was issued to the wife and/or mother (or nearest female relative) of those on active service overseas. Stars displayed on a bar suspended below the Female Relative badge represent the number of relatives involved in the war effort. These were not issued automatically and the potential recipient had to fill out the appropriate form at the post office and have it witnessed by a post office employee. Luckily because Catherine was listed as Hubert’s next of kin she received her badges easily, however if she had not been listed as next of kin the process could have been very difficult and she may not have bothered to apply for the badges.
By 1951 the sense of loss had not abated and as she was now 70 years old and not up to battling bureaucracy she asked her son-in-law, himself a survivor of the Changi Japanese war camp, to write to the War Office for the medals, awarded to Hubert. They were issued to her a month later.
Each ANZAC Day Hubert Henry Swarbrick’s photograph is displayed in at least one descendant’s home and his sacrifice is recalled with gratitude. Recalled also is the sacrifice of his mother, and her ceaseless longing for her beloved son whose broad cheery smile would never light her days again.
Hubert Henry Swarbrick, September 1944 aged 21 years

Catherine Fanny Swarbrick, mother of Hubert Henry Swarbrick, wearing Mothers' and Widows' Badge

Mothers' and Widows' Badge (Image from Australian War Memorial   https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/badges/mothers_widows/)

Correspondence accompanying badge sent to Catherine F. Swarbrick

Sheahan, Dan, "Fate and Gods Decide," Songs from the Canefields, A poem dedicated to Signaller Howard Harvey, son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Harvey, formerly of Ingham who died in a a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Vidonja Balanzategui, Bianka, Herbert River Story, Ingham: Hinchinbrook Shire Council, 2011
“Mothers’ and Widows’ Badge,” Australian War Memorial,  https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/badges/mothers_widows/

“Female Relative Badge,” Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/badges/female_relative/

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