Off to Gallipoli in search of dad's unspoken war

MICK Ray never heard his father talk about his personal horrors of World War I — it was a topic where conversation was quickly shot down.

So when  the 73-year-old Warrnambool resident visits Gallipoli next year with 8000 Aussies selected last week in a ballot for the centenary celebrations it will be a chance to imagine what his dad, Bert Ray, went through.

“I’m as proud as punch to be going,” he said yesterday.

“My dad enlisted in the AIF 6th Light Horse when he was 16 — he put his age up.

“It was said he was one of the youngest in his regiment and certainly one of the youngest at Gallipoli, where he spent his 17th birthday.

“He was incredibly lucky to receive only a light shrapnel wound. 

“He served right through from 1914 to the end of the war.”

The shrapnel stayed in Bert’s shoulder until he had it removed about 20 years later.

Mick’s son Darryl, who will accompany his father to Gallipoli, also joined the defence force and spent more than six years in the army before becoming a professional fireman in Perth.

It was Darryl who suggested his father apply last year for the ballot which gave preference to direct descendants of First World War soldiers and veterans.

“It will be a very emotional trip for us,” Mick said.

“Darryl has dad’s medals and will probably take them over and we’ll do a tour of the trenches.”

Mick fondly remembers walking with his late father in their home town of Hay, NSW, for the Anzac Day marches.

“But when he died in 1976 aged 74 I lost the passion,” he said.

“They were the golden years and we didn’t realise it.

“Even if he was drunk or sober he wouldn’t talk about the war and would quickly shut down conversations about it.

“He warned us not to go anywhere near the war area.”

Bert spent his working years as a shearer, fencer and general farm labourer and raised six children.

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide