Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lest We Forget

Today is Anzac Day, where we commemorate and pay respect to all Australian and New Zealand soldiers, especially those who have given their lives in defense of the country. It was originally a day of rememberance specifically for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps bloody and terrible landing at Gallipoli during the First World War, the first major military operation for our country.

One thing that always comes to mind to me on Anzac Day, and always gets me emotional any other time I hear it, is the Song I was Only 19, by the band Redgum. It was written by the band's singer, John Schuman, based on personal experiences of his brother-in-law and other returned veterans who served in the Vietnam war. I've embedded a clip and the lyrics below.

Music and Lyrics by John Schuman, performed by Redgum.

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing-out parade at Puckapunyal
It was a long march from cadets.
The sixth battalion was the next to tour
And it was me who drew the card.
We did Canungra, Shoalwater before we left.

And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean.
And there's me in my slouch hat with my SLR and greens.
God help me, I was only nineteen.

From Vung Tau, riding Chinooks, to the dust at Nui Dat
I'd been in and out of choppers now for months.
But we made our tents a home, VB and pinups on the lockers
And an Asian orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And nighttime's just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes
Can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen

A four-week operation
When each step could mean your last one on two legs
It was a war within yourself
But you wouldn't let your mates down till they had you dusted off
So you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

Then someone yelled out "Contact!"; and the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours, then a God almighty roar
And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon,
God help me, he was going home in June.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six hour rec leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

And the Anzac legends didn't mention mud and blood and tears
And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real.
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn't even feel
God help me, I was only nineteen

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what's this rash that comes and goes
can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen



  1. dang. can't watch video now.

    i remember the movie was heartbreaking.

  2. I have never heard that song before. It's very stirring. My dad fought and flew helicopters in Vietnam. He wore a helmet just like the one the pilot in the clip was wearing. Gave me chills.
    Excellent post!


Hi! Thanks for leaving a comment. :)