100 Years

1918 - 2018

Marking the end of World War I

A Farewell to Arms 1918

By Martin Curtis

Harry Dodd’s role in the war to end all wars ended with the explosion of a shell that landed near him in the assault on Mont St Quentin on the afternoon of Sunday 1 September 1918.

In the grim humour of the London hospital ward where he ended up ¬– and with talk of a ceasefire on everyone’s lips – he joked that he’d already been disarmed and would soon be going home.

The same couldn’t be said of Hawkes and Jones. They were dead in a sugar beet field. 'Known unto God' was how the officials phrased their whereabouts, which meant Hawkes and Jones might be buried in a shell crater on the battlefield. Or bits of them might be.

'Count your blessings' the survivors said to one another.

Wounded soldiers from World War I pictured in the 1920s with senior nursing staff at the Caulfield Rehabilitation Hospital in Kooyong Rd.

A month later the German army was in retreat. Seventy-two days later it was official. The whole world would disarm. A peace plan was announced.

The night of the Armistice Harry got drunk with the other patients at the London rehabilitation hospital. The nurses and doctors went to celebrate at Trafalgar Square leaving the melancholic patients to ponder their fates.

The men in the grim circle felt a shift in their understanding of the universe that night. The war was over for the able-bodied who could celebrate, resume their lives, their jobs, their roles as sons, husbands, and fathers.

But what about the blind wheat farmer from Ararat, the man in the mask missing his jaw, the lung damaged bricklayer from Manchester, and Harry Dodd, the axeman from Jacksons Track who could fell five Mountain Ash trees in an afternoon if the timber mill at Warragul ordered them for the next day.

What was the peace plan for a one-armed axeman?

Martin Curtis, 2018

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