Today I’m joined by Glenda Kane, author of the picture book, Anzac Day Parade. Glanda tells us about her Anzac memories and why she wrote her story.
We have three sons who love playing war games. To them, it’s fun. But I wanted them to understand that, in real life, war is not a game.
“There he stood on the sun-parched hill, a straggler from 18th Battalion.”
I’d attended an Anzac Day service at the Auckland Cenotaph with my family. Afterwards, I noticed an old man dressed in his best jacket – complete with medals – leaning on a walking stick, staring out towards Rangitoto. A small boy was looking at him with an expression of awe.
At that moment, I wondered what the old soldier was seeing as he gazed into the distance. What was he remembering? What had he been through? And what did the little boy think?
I’ll never know who they were. I just went away and made up the story.
“Did ya shoot them dead,” asked the bright-eyed boy. “Did it feel real cool to kill?” With a voice bereft of joy, he sighed: “No son, it was no thrill.”
When the illustrator, Lisa Allen, needed an old soldier to become her model, we contacted 92-year-old Crete veteran Noel Dromgool and his wife, Peggy. They allowed us to photograph Noel while he reminisced about training, battle, defeat, and his long internment in a prisoner of war camp.
We were privileged to hear his stories over the course of an afternoon. We left with immense respect for a man and his mates who sacrificed so much for their country and for future generations – us, and our children.
Quite a long time passed before the book was printed. Finally, I phoned Noel and Peggy to tell them it was published. There was no reply. Eventually I called another number listed under ‘Dromgool’ in the phone book. It turned out to be Noel’s son.
I explained who I was and said I wanted to show his father the new book. “Bad news, I’m afraid,” he said. “Dad died.” I wanted to cry. Instead, I asked if I could send the book to Peggy. “I’m afraid she died, too.”
The youngest soldiers from the Second World War are now at least 85 years old.
If anyone has a grandparent or great-uncle or neighbour who fought in the war, talk to them; ask them questions; write down their story. Do it now. There isn’t much time left.
I’m proud to say that when Noel’s son saw Anzac Day Parade he said he thought it was “pretty bloody good,” and that his dad would’ve thought so, too.
I hope young readers think it’s pretty good as well.