Monday, February 13, 2006
George Gideon ....
George Gideon ... was my grandfather.
He came to mind as I lay awake thinking about my 5 month wait for a long-stay residency permit in Belgium ... 5 months and still waiting for word from anyone. Yeah, it's on my mind in these days, it's 2am ... clearly it's on my mind. I'm not really a calvanist by inclination, I do miss having freedom of travel and the dignity of being able to earn my own money.
But why was I thinking of Grandad ?
Well when Grandad was 18 years old he joined the Otago Mounted Rifles back in New Zealand. He died at the age of 94 and I believe he was one of the last three Gallipoli veterans to die in New Zealand.
His regiment was involved in the August attacks on Sair Bair and Chunuk Bair but until I visited Gallipoli I had no idea about what that had involved.
As children we were told not to bother him with questions, that he had seen things that he had no desire to speak of ... and so we didn't ask because we couldn't imagine what he had done. Later, Dad said that Grandad had emphasised his desire to be cremated when he died. He had seen things that no one should see on those World War One battlefields.
Battlefields ... after the survivors were taken off Gallipoli, my Grandad's battalion were reunited with horses and shipped over to French Flanders to fight more bloody European battles so many thousands of miles from home.
Grandad loved horses and it must have been hard when the shell that injured him killed his horse but he was one of the lucky ones who came home at the end of the war ... deaf of course. Exploding shells and things.
Approximately 18,000 New Zealanders were killed in World War One when the population of the entire country was barely one million. Another 17,000 died in World War Two ... 35,000 killed and so many more wounded.
I wonder if Grandad would be surprised if I told him that I've been waiting 5 months for permission to reside in Europe. Mmmm, but perhaps not. He'd probably remember the English Generals back in Gallipoli. It was the one thing he did tell my brother ... he said, 'It was terrible, we fought for a hill and then the English Generals called us down saying that the hill didn’t matter anymore, that we should retreat.'
'The hill' ... Grandad was a great one for understating things.