A TALE OF A TRULY INSPIRING MAN – MY FATHER-IN-LAW

TMAAT October 15, 2013

We met for the very first time in Launceston. He was 75, and still young.

I, on the other hand, was fresh from Holland, green as a shoot and dating his daughter. What he must have thought of me at the time, I prefer to ignore.

He said little – “Good on you, son. Now, let’s have a beer at The Traveler’s Club”. He smoked his pipe and he drank his ale. He was a man.

What he must have thought of me …

I was dating his girl, the rose of Tasmania and I had not a cent to my name and even less prospects. A hopeless case.

And then, a few months later, we were married. What he must have thought of that! A penniless son-in-law. Terribly unfitting for a fine family such as his.

But whatever he must have thought, he set it aside, took me in and made me welcome. We got along famously and I always loved his company – having a drink, playing cribbage, a card game for two.

My father-in-law loved life and he loved being with his grand-children. But he also loved the horses. His favorite pastime was following the horses and he gave me his best advice – “Follow the trainer and the jockey, son, but speak to the horses”.

One day I put his bets on at the TAB. I was young and a kind lady helped me to fill in the forms. Turns out they were the wrong forms and I ended up betting on the Sydney races instead of the Melbourne races!

My face turned white with shock when I found out but, thankfully, all the horses came in first and he had a big win! You never know your luck.

My father-in-law’s service to King and country meant that my 3 daughters had a grand-father who served during the Great War of 1914-1918.

He was born in Melbourne in 189 5and at the age of 21 he enlisted as an ambulance driver in World War I. What an adventure for a young man who had never been out of Australia before.

He joined the Light Horse Field Ambulance in 1916 and embarked from Sydney on the HMAT A54 Runic for the Middle East. You can Google it. I did. You’ll see a giant, floating rust-bucket that seemed incapable of carrying so many men and all their gear. Their last stop in Australian was Albany WA before the long journey . As a stretcher-bearer he carried the wounded and dying through the battlefields. His tour of duty started in the Middle East. He was then transferred to France where he witnessed the most horrific battles. Countless lives that could not be saved.

No questions asked, no reasons given. He just did his duty for his King and his country. He was a good man.

He returned home safely in 1918 , the day his mother died after suffering gas poisoning. Dad was not given long to live but in his final triumph he proved that doctors don’t always get it right. He lived to the age of 103. Four months short of his 104 birthday.

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