The Question

Watching the ANZAC day news tonight, my seven-year old asked me a question:

“Did anyone in our family die in the war?”
“Yes, my sweet,” I replied, “they did”.
I explained.

My little ones great, great grandfather. He was a naval man (Royal Navy), as all our male family members were to that point, following the family’s naval tradition (a custom my great grandmother made my grandfather promise to break, given it was an institution that had killed them all).

It was World War I. The year was 1914. The ship was Good Hope, Admiral Craddock’s West Indies Squadron flagship. The battle was Coronel.

A gunnery officer, his ship, Good Hope, was struck by volley after volley from the German armoured cruiser Scharnhorst, in concert with Gneisenau and a further three German light cruisers, all modern, efficient ships. Once the battle was done, the last it was seen it was steaming to the horizon, listing badly, issuing smoke. It was never seen again. All but five of her nine hundred hands died.

When I was done, my little girl wept for her great, great grandfather, a man she never knew.
And for the first time in my life, quietly, so she couldn’t see. . .
. . .so did I.

What does this day mean for me? It means the sacrifice of a young man named George. And it means a life, celebrated by a little girl George never knew, nearly a century away.

1 comment:

  1. My grandfather died on the Good Hope AB Joseph Hughes.He never saw his daughter,my mother, she was born whilst he was at sea.He left my nan with 5 children the oldest being 4.My mum never new what happened to her dad only that he was lost at sea.She was not sure if the ship Was called Good Hope or that was where it was sunk.Finally I found out about the ship amd the battle after much searching,unfortunately it was 2 weeks after my mum had died. F.Gary


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