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Introduction to the stories

Bruce Scates introduces four stories of families far away seeking a focus for their grief.
BRUCE SCATES: Welcome back to The One Hundred Stories. I’m standing in Shrapnel Valley Cemetery. Over there is Plugge’s Plateau, the very first ridge taken by the first Anzac’s to land here in April 1915. And in front of us, in front is Shrapnel Valley, Shrapnel Valley, which was the main arterial road of Anzac. Every day, men could be trudging up that line carrying supplies, carrying munitions, carrying all the things you needed to fight the war here on the peninsula. And not surprisingly, Shrapnel Valley was, of course, a target for Ottoman artillery. Every day that valley was showered with shrapnel, and that’s the way that Shrapnel Valley got its name.
Like most flat ground at Gallipoli, this became the site of a cemetery. On the peninsula, the living and the dead competed, quite literally, for space. Over 700 men are buried here in this patch of ground.
J. E Barclay here was one of them, just 22 years of age when he was killed in June of 1915. And what’s so interesting about this particular grave is its epitaph. “I’ve no darling now,” Mrs. Barclay writes, “I’m weeping. Baby and I you left alone.” Historians don’t know very much about Mrs. Barclay. We know she struggled to raise that baby on a widow’s pension back home in St. Kilda. We know that by the time she wrote those deeply moving words, she’d actually remarried. And we know that every one of those letters in that epitaph was both a financial as well as an emotional investment. Why? Because the Australian Government charged Mrs.
Barclay three pence halfpenny for every letter and every space between each letter, as if she hadn’t already given quite enough. Finally, what historians know is that baby described in this epitaph also went to war. He was named after his father, and he served in New Guinea. And that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the promise that was made that generation, that this would be the war to end all wars, was broken here.
Some of the inscriptions recorded here speak of king and country, pride and sacrifice. But not all of them. These words convey the long, unrelenting years of mourning. Others, the sharp, sharp pang of grief.
Other families, though not very many of them, actually do travel to Anzac. The Grimwades made the journey here in 1922. And the Grimwades, the Grimwades are one of Australia’s richest families. And what do they bring with them? They bring with them this great slab of granite from their hometown to lay here in this cemetery. This rock was placed here long before the cemetery at Shrapnel Valley was completed. Their boy wouldn’t be coming home to them, but something of home was taken to him here. This module of The One Hundred Stories looks at the way that individuals mediated grief, the private practises, the personal gestures, that sometimes, just sometimes, enabled families to come to terms with this terrible loss.
And this module begins with the story of another man lost here at Gallipoli, Brian Lyall.

Watch Bruce Scates introduce the four stories from Shrapnel Valley, Gallipoli in Turkey.

Having explored aspects of mourning and how we commemorate those lost, you can now explore stories of how families far away sought a focus for their grief.

After you’ve watched the stories, we’ll be asking you to reflect and share your thoughts on the different ways families sought to identify a particular point of interest while grieving those lost in war.

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World War 1: A History in 100 Stories

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