WE REMEMBER THE WOMEN
Every year, when we come to Anzac and Remembrance Days, I am torn between competing beliefs.
I want to stand as part of my local community to remember the many people who lost their lives in the most horrific war we’ve ever been involved in, while knowing – as a child of the generation that first marched against war – that war itself is just as wrongheaded as can be.
I’ll be thinking of a small group of Scottish and English women, who, in December 1914, travelled to France to set up a hospital in the old abbey of Royaumont north of Paris. When they arrived, in the dead of winter, there was no electricity, no heating and no furniture.
Yet, in less than a month, surgeon chief Miss Frances Ivens and her 15 women doctors, orderlies and nurses opened a working hospital that grew to 600 beds with a large staff including several Australians, served France so ably that many staff were awarded the Croix du guerre, and Miss Ivens received the Légion d’honneur.
I’ll be thinking of my French great grandmother too, Andrée MacColl (née Zabé), who moved from Paris to Scotland to marry, and then watched as her firstborn, 17-year-old son, my grandfather, André Dugald (pictured right), went to war in France as a boy, came home years later a man, forever changed by what he saw, unknowable to the mother who adored him, unknowable to anyone as it turned out.
War doesn’t end with an armistice. It continues to affect not only those involved but their children and their children and theirs, so that the harm pollutes the great river of life in every country and community war touches.
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