Taking a ride on the tram, opens a new window is becoming a bit of a school holiday habit for the Young Lad and I. On our trip round the loop the other day, we passed the Field of Remembrance, opens a new window at Cranmer Square.
Field of Remembrance. Flickr, 2015-03-27-IMG_6779
I have to admit that Anzac Day has never really meant much to me, except as a day off school when I was a kid. This year, though, it seems so much more significant. You see, I've spent the last couple of months researching a soldier for the New Brighton Boys project, opens a new window, and suddenly the war became real to me. Seeing all those white crosses — I got a little choked up trying to explain to the Young Lad what it was all about. Each of those crosses was suddenly a person to me, not just a statistic, or a page in a history book, but a real person with a life, a family; a person with dreams for a future that ought to have been but never would.
I can't think of John Frederick Haynes as anything but my soldier. My blue eyed, brown haired boy, who shares my Dad's birthday, and lived round the corner from where I grew up — and died when he was just 23. I'd never heard of him before last November, and started out with just a name and a service number, but the more I found out about him, the more I wanted to know. The bald facts that I found in military records, electoral rolls, church registers, and Births, Deaths, and Marriages records coalesced, blossomed, and became tangible to me.
I could almost have been there in the room when his little brother Lawrence, who was just 19, came home and told his family that the attesting officer had let him enlist this time. I felt his mother's sadness that she'd lost her middle boy to the war and now her baby had enlisted too. Was it she who convinced Francis, the eldest, that he needed to enlist to keep an eye on Lawrence? Did Francis’ wife, Reubena, try to persuade him not to go? Either way, Francis enlisted the very next day.
Lawrence and Francis came home. John did not.
This Anzac Day I will remember them.
- Read my full biography of John Frederick Haynes
- Need help researching your own soldier? Try this quick guide, opens a new window
- Find out more about Anzac Day, opens a new window on our website