On another lonely Anzac Day, a lonely monument stands out

Zonnebeke, Belgium (AP) —Lonely behavior further shows that the sacrifices of Australia and New Zealand during World War I will be unforgettable on another Anzac Day, lonely due to a pandemic.

At dawn on Sunday, worldwide attention will be directed to the beaches of Gallipoli, Turkey. There, two emerging nations created a sense of national character from the horrors of the war in April 1915. Along the forefront of Europe, small rituals thank you for over a century. After the war is over.

In Flandersfield, Belgium, so-called Anzac troops also fought along the vast front line about 2,750 km (1,700 miles) west of Gallipoli.

Johann van Deware has almost completed a 40-meter-long monument that killed his brother, based on an Australian soldier named John “Jack” Hunter, whose body was found decades after his brother’s death. I lead a volunteer team.

Born 60 years ago at the forefront of the Battle of Passchendaele, Vandeware was immersed in the horrors of the global conflict of 1914-1918, which claimed the lives of 14 million people, from an early age. Nearly 60,000 Australians and at least 16,000 New Zealanders.

In fact, soldiers were still buried in the playground of Vandewall as a child. The early fascination with war turned into a lifelong passion for giving justice to corrupt people. He became an amateur archaeologist, allowing him to identify the body still being dug.

He soon learned that when more bodies were found on the road in 2006, a soldier wrapped in a rubber ground sheet crossed his heart and something special happened. I did. After being attacked by the Germans on September 26, 1917, Jack Hunter’s brother Jim found him dead and buried him near the marker so that he could later recover his body.

In a war where villages and forests were destroyed by relentless artillery and turned into unrecognizable swamps overnight, Jim never regained his brother’s body and found it difficult to live with.

Molly Millis, 94, a niece from Brisbane, Queensland, said Jim “called her name when she died” on her deathbed. He always wanted to find him, but the landscape of Flanders was very different. “

Vandewall’s efforts to identify the hunter ended at the gateway to Millis, and Molly’s DNA revealed a majestic break in Polygonwood, the Butt New British Cemetery near where Jack died in 2007. It provided proof that you would actually find it. “I’m forever grateful to Johan for taking care of Jack,” Millis said.

Impressed by the Hunters’ story, Vandewall began building a monument to kill his brother, overwhelmingly privately funded. We are currently waiting for the statue to arrive to complete the work.

For Millis, it represents a bond that connects people half a world away.

“It’s great that Johann was able to make a monument for all those who lost their brothers in the war. He worked very hard and worked for years. We worked for him. I consider him a true friend of the family, “said Millis.

Even if she lives more Anzac Day, no visits will occur. “I want to see the monument complete, but I’m too old to travel there now.”

Thousands of people were allowed to march again in Australia on Sunday, but even after last year’s commemorative ceremony was canceled, COVID-19 restrictions are still in Anzac every year in places such as Villers-Bretonneux and Ypres in France. It remains valid in many parts of Europe where military ceremonies take place. In Belgium.

Ambassadors, diplomats and local officials still hold small events, but the general public is at best a distant bystander. I wanted Vandewalle a little more.

“We offer a special service only for a very small number of people who welcome the wreath,” said Vandewall. “Sunday is a special day. Anzac Day as a memorial to all the corrupt people.”


Associated Press journalists Virginia Mayo and Mark Carlson contributed to this report.