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Help! I have lost my blue tie

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We were uniformed reminders of something of which the veterans did not want to be reminded

It is a strange sensation to have lived a lifetime in which, successively, Australia has fought against the Germans, the Italians, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Indonesians, the Vietnamese, and is now fighting against who we are not sure — it is difficult to know who the enemy is, but it seems very much like a rerun of the crusades. Only the Japanese have ever posed a direct threat of invasion; yet the bones of Australians lie across the world.

I have a faint memory of Americans in uniform in Melbourne. I was in the local milk bar when VJ Day was proclaimed. I knew nothing of war itself, except my father was periodically away in the Navy.

Armistice Day was my first memory of a city street completely still when the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month came. It was a time when every man took off his hat — as they did when funerals passed. The sole noise that day was the clacking of high heels as a woman walked by, seemingly oblivious of the one-minute silence.

At school, I remember that every Anzac Day there was a service and recitation of the dead who had been at the school and “laid down their life” for their country. As a young cadet, I remember a sodden day being part of the schoolboy honour guard — in slouch hat, Victorian era blue tunic,…