Legacy vital for families
EVERY time an Australian soldier is killed in an overseas conflict, the news triggers sad memories for a group of Warwick women, who were on the emotional frontline of World War II.
They are the Rose City branch of the Laurel Club, a support group for the widows of Australian servicemen.
Club member Joan Smith is the first to admit it was more than 65 years ago and they are generations apart from those currently serving.
“But we know what it’s like to worry someone you love won’t come home,” Mrs Smith said.
“Many women here know first-hand what it is like when you lose a husband, brother or sweetheart to a war on the other side of the world.”
Yesterday, as the group met for their monthly lunch at the Warwick RSL Club, news came through of yet another Australian casualty in Afghanistan.
The tragedy took them back to a time before they needed walking sticks, before their hair was faded grey, before they lost those handsome men they loved.
Mrs Smith was 21, newly married and full of dreams for her future when the unthinkable happened: Australia went to war.
It was 1940.
Within six months, the dashing young country boy she’d married had signed up with the Australian Ammunition Supplies Corp and been sent overseas.
When she kissed him goodbye in Brisbane she didn’t realise it would be four years or 48 months or more than 1450 days until she held him again.
“It was a long wait but I was one of the fortunate ones, Keith came home. A lot didn’t,” she said.
“He was captured by the Japanese in Singapore and later shifted to a prisoner of war camp in Japan.”
There were a few precious letters “without much detail” he wrote while he was a POW but very little else in the way of contact.
She, in turn, wrote to tell him of their little daughter, born just months after he left.
Those powerful memories and living in constant fear are something all Laurel Club members can relate to.
“For us it simply reinforces how important Legacy is, especially today,” Mrs Smith said. “We need to make sure the families and loved ones are cared for.”
Legacy is an independent voluntary organisation dedicated to the welfare of children and widows of members of the Australian Defence Forces. Across the country Legacy provides care to more than 134,000 widows and 1800 children and disabled dependants of veterans.
Legacy members will sell badges and pens to raise funds in Warwick on September 2, 3 and 4.