Sunday, 15 April 2012

Anzac Day: Damion Parer

Anzac Day: RSL  Dawn Service
Last time I was in Canberra I visited the “National Film and Sound Archives”.  While there one particular exhibit caught my attention.  It featured the first Australian Academy Award winning film ...”Kakoda Frontline”.
The film images are now iconic.  The “diggers” fighting their way across the steep, mountainous terrain, hampered by dense jungle, continuous rain storms, river crossings but ever by their sides helping;  sometimes carrying the wounded are the New Guinea natives, the legendary ‘fuzzy wuzzy angles”  It was little wonder the film won an Academy Award.
At the time the film was being shot life back in Australia was still relatively good, they had not really been touched by the war.  No German or Japanese night bombers flying over, raining down death and destruction.  Rationing was not as tight as in England.  No sounds of canon firing in the distance.  It was easy to pretend the war posed no danger,  it was too far away to threaten Australia or her future.
But the threat was real and coming closer.  Japan after entering the war and a string of victories in the Pacific had decided to attack New Guinea landing with a force of 1500 men and with 3000 more in reserve.  All that was standing between them and the exposed north of Australia was the hastily formed 39th battalion.  They carried the nick name the “chocolate soldiers” because every one back at home thought they would just melt at the first sign of any real fighting. 
These ‘chocolate soldiers” managed to hold out in hard, vicious fighting and with reinforcement they managed to defeat and turn back the military might of Japan.
Damien Parer was the photographer of this film “Kakoda Frontline”.  Damien has significant connections with King Island.  His parents lived here, he himself spent much of his boyhood here and his family owned the Hotel that still bears their name.  The film ends with a strong statement by Damien Parer in which he makes an impassioned plea warning people back in Australia not to be complacent about the dangers they and the soldiers are facing on their behalf. 
Parer realized the danger Australian were in.  The north of the country was virtually unprotected.  His film and his call to vigilance and action helped stir the nation.
Parer did not survive the war.  He was killed less than 2 years after the release of “Kakoda Frontline” by Japanese machine gun fire while again filming the war.  He died telling the world the news they needed to hear.
Visit any RSL club in Australia and you will see the phrase, “Lest we forget” but where have those words come from and why are they used on War memorials?
It comes from a poem written by Rudyard Kipling to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee is 1897. Kipling recognized that England was in some danger.  All Empires when they rise in wealth and power tend to begin forgetting about God and boasting about their own efforts to achieve greatness.  Recessional then is both a poem expressing pride in Britain’s achievements and a warning against the dangers of becoming arrogant and forgetting that it is God who is in ultimate power and so the one who is responsible for giving victories in times of war.
The Recessional:
God of our fathers, known of old…
Lord of our far-flung battle line…
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine…
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies…
The Captains and the Kings depart…
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!
The ancient sacrifice Kipling speaks of is God’s own sacrifice of himself upon a cross.
Damien Parer recognised the danger to our nation of being complacent.  Even with the danger that Japan entering the war presented: life went on in Australia in relatively comfort and most people did not realize the danger they were in or what the soldiers were going through.  Damien gave his life warning people and the filming scenes of struggle the soldiers faced that would going preserve their freedom and safety.
Rudyard Kipling also recognized a different sort of complacency ... and the need to remind people of the danger they were in when they forgot about God and took their good fortune for granted.  He wrote His poem “Recessional” to tell of that danger.
Each generation seems can become complacent, there is a constant need for the world to be reminded that there is one who is ultimately responsible, one who one day we will all need to stand before and give an account to ... God.
His own Son came into the world to be the Good News, the Good News that God forgives us through Jesus,  that God loves us and cares for us.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rod,

    Many thanks for our time together for the 10th Anniversary of the new All Saints Church building.

    I have made a summary link from my blog to this ANZAC article with its King Island connection. Blessings on your life and ministry.

    Shalom, John