We’re going to lose all the boys


Aft Ashes
4 min readMay 7, 2021
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

“They don’t remember,” said the little old lady to her wizened friend as she leaned over a piece of cloth.

I overheard the words whilst visiting the craft shop to buy scraps of cloth for our kids to learn sewing with just after ANZAC day.

The upset women then proceeded to list their grand children and nephews, and the two of them compared the list against who they lost “last time”.

They only mentioned the boys. Because things were different back then.

Now? Now it should have been a list that included the girls too.

She was in tears. That’s something that has you stop and listen. Is she okay? What depth of pain must she be feeling to be crying in public? Someone must have died or gotten seriously hurt.

Oh. Right. They did.

And even though that was over 80 years ago it clearly still hurts.

They were both terrified.

They could see the same story repeating itself again in the words of warmongering leaders and public servants here in Australia (prompted of course by the USA).

Lest we forget

In my family alone our great grand fathers on both sides lost half, or all, their brothers to war (One and Two).

The only reason our family exists today is because our great grandfathers survived that war.

9 children, six boys and half the boys died. That’s one side of the family.

Three boys, two died. That’s the other.

I did always kinda wonder why I didn’t have a lot of extended family.

My great grandfather served in the first one — too old (incapable?) for the second, but by all accounts was pretty messed up in the end. His younger brother died in the second one. His elder in the first — he was at the hospital when his brother died from his wounds (he got permission to visit whilst serving).

His brother was wounded in The Somme. 1 Million dead or wounded.


Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

The younger brother died in Greece in the next one.

These days we’d call his subsequent behaviour PTSD and understand that as a code word for his “challenging” way of being. I never met the bloke so I didn’t know.

The Cost of Service

That would be the same PTSD and mental health issues that those who serve suffer from today too. The ones that have resulted in a suicide rate that has gotten so bad that here in Australia they’ve called a royal commission.

Because you don’t just risk death and injury in war — you risk the destruction of your very soul. Your core of being. You despair. Because no one cares.

They’ve moved on. It’s old news.

The Glory of Service?

You need to understand the tragedy of service in our families is something we only just found out recently because of my wife’s interest in family trees and genetics.

Because NONE of our family talk about the “glory of service”.

Which is incredible given we met doing military service of our own; Something we did straight from school with the enthusiasm of mislead youth.

Now we have a much much more cynical view on how the military really gets used and abused. How it “really” serves, gets chewed up and thrown away.

Nothing new there — Kipling talks about it.

Either way, even after we joined and served, our family never once talked about “the war/s”.

Neither do we.

But please don’t get me wrong. We respect our friends and colleagues who are still choosing to serve — because they’re the ones who are going to pay for our country’s (world’s) inability to find another way (like always) when things go down.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

And yet here we are

Gearing up for war, we’re apparently “pivoting” from Afghanistan (giving up) because we need the resources for the “inevitable” conflict over Taiwan..

An Afghanistan where we discovered (again) that we can be just as much of a monster as everyone else. Because war makes monsters. A war where Australians (allegedly?) committed war crimes.

War Because?

Because it was all worth it? It’s not like we then spent the next 50 years after WW2 “cold” and “hot” fighting an endless war with the very nations who were our allies during that war. You know:

  • The Chinese.
  • The Koreans.
  • The Russians.
  • The Vietnamese.
  • The Arabs.

They were all on our side against the “bad guys” remember? At least we’re friends with the Japanese and Germans these days.

Isn’t that strange.

So where are YOU going to stand now?

Because the only option is the inevitability of war right? It’s not like we know how to go down any other path is it?

Because we just can’t seem to remember..

Lest we forget?



Aft Ashes

Arise! Ashes, Arise! Talking about starting again — just like Frankenstein’s monster!