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A Distant Grief - Australians, War Graves & The Great War


Andrew P
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I've just finished this book by Bart Ziino and was very impressed with it.

The title is pretty much self explanatory as this book is about how Australian s coped with the loss of 60,000 of it's sons and focuses on the grieving processes that families went through as well as how the distance from their sons, husbands, fathers graves affected them & the community.

There are several chapters which focus on the different aspects of this grief and includes much information on the post war work of the battlefield clearance teams/grave units plus the Imperial War Graves Commission and Fabian Ware. Very interesting is the history of those trying to get an unknown soldier brought back to Australia from the 1920's onwards and how at the time there was a split between those who favoured getting an unknown Australian solider back for burial against those who beleived the Unknown soldier in England represented the entire British Empire.

There are the fascinating accounts of those who were of a 'means' and were able to travel the great distance to make a pilgramage to the battlefield cemeteries to look for the final burial sites of their lost loved ones. Ziino puts forward that many of these 'pilgrims' acted for those who could not make the journey and their descriptions of the battlefields & cemeteries when they got back to Australia was a help to the greiving process of the nation. Unfortunately not all these pilgrims were successful in their search for their loved ones and many left disappointed.

Though the focus is on Australia, there is also mention made of New Zealand, Canada & British experiences.

It was published by UWA Press in 2007.

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Andrew, does it talk about the choosing of personal epitaphs for the headstones? I've always thought it was very tough on those who could not afford them - or, in the case of the NZers, were not allowed to have them. Although, as no NZers were allowed them, perhaps they didn't know any different. In Australia, though, there would have been a difference between those who could afford it, and those who could not.

It certainly sounds like an interesting book. I wonder if it is available over here? I'll have to have a look - I know some Australian ones aren't sold here.

Allie

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Hi Allie, yep he does touch on that, as many while they would have loved to have put an epitaph on their loved ones grave, could not afford it and unfortunately the government would not help in monetary terms, for if they helped one family afford it they would have to help every family.

Pretty sad really.

If it isn't available in book stores in NZ I think it's available through Amazon.

Cheers

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unfortunately the government would not help in monetary terms, for if they helped one family afford it they would have to help every family.

That is pretty sad, especially considering that's exactly what the Canadian government did. Two extremes of being fair: NZ government saying since not everyone can afford one, no-one can have one; the Canadian government saying since not everyone can afford one, we'll pay for them.

Another thing is that there were families who had men in both the AIF and NZEF, so there would have been people who knew the difference.

I'm heading into the city on Sunday, and hopefully may get let lose in a bookshop.

Allie

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