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Thursday, April 19, 2012

ANZAC Day 2012 – A mother’s perspective

ANZAC Day, observed on 25 April each year, is the national day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders who died at war.

Last year I co-hosted an ANZAC day blogging challenge with Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries. This year I have bowed out of co-hosting, due to commitments of life in general. However, I didn’t want to miss out on participating. This is my contribution to the 2012 ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.

My great-uncle Charles George French was not yet 21 when he tried to enlist in the military. It was a little too soon for his mother’s liking:

“I have no objection to his enlistment for Home Service. I object to his enlistment for Active Service Abroad he is too young. Make any use you like of him for Home Service”

Elizabeth French, 3 June 1918

Digital copy of item

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© Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2012.

Without consent for Active Service Abroad, Charles’ application to enlist was cancelled.

Charles must have talked his mother around, as just a week later he provided a consent form with her signature. With her consent, his application was accepted. He embarked for France on 31 August 1918 the same year. His elder brother Walter had already seen service and returned home to Australia, discharged from duty with deafness.

As I was reading Charles’ military service file, I already knew that he had returned home alive. Having come home in October 1919 he married in 1920 and went on to raise a family. His mother Elizabeth didn’t have the reassurance of this knowledge as he set sail for France. On 31 August 1918, Charles’ fate was unknown. How hard it must have been for Elizabeth to let her young son, just 19 years of age, go off to war.

© Shelley Crawford, 2012


  1. Great post! I've also been very interested in the correspondence between the Department of Defence and mothers of servicemen. Makes for moving reading when I think of my own 3 sons.

    1. Thanks Fi! I know that 19 will seem very young when my little boy turns into a big boy. Not that it would really be OK at any age...

  2. Great post. I have nearly finished my contribution. This year my ANZAC post fits in nicely with the A-Z Challenge I have been doing - the theme for this year is Australia!

    1. Here is my contribution for this year -

  3. This is a lovely little tale. I created a link to this story from my blog because you inspired me to write my own story for the ANZAC blog challenge. Thanks!

  4. A lovely and poignant post Shelley. It reminds me of a letter my gg grandmother sent to the Australian Army begging for news of two of her missing sons during WWI. One returned and one didn't, but she died before news of either of them reached the family. So very sad.

  5. Thanks for sharing! There are so many stories to tell and they show bravery on many fronts. It certainly wasn't only the troops who went above and beyond!

  6. They were so determined to go weren't they, even so young. I admire his mother's courage at giving her permission without knowing how it would turn out.