Can I know the unknown soldier?
I started writing this on Anzac Day, 2014, and the Sydney Morning Herald was carrying a story entitled ‘On a foreign field a girl remembers the fallen’:
An Australian schoolgirl unexpectedly wells up with tears over a nameless Fromelles gravestone. Zoe Bell, 17, of St Leonard’s College in Melbourne, isn’t usually like this, her teacher tells me. This isn’t hysteria or histrionics. Just history.
Here in northern France, the numbers and politics and clichés of a century-old war fall away, and the reality of it rises from the ground like the thick local fog. Its meaning chills you so sharply that it can force water from the most cynical, surprised eyes.
All those dead. On this soil, it doesn’t take a supernatural imagination to sense their presence.
There are a multitude of Zoes on the Western Front right now. Swarms of coaches buzz from one cemetery to the next.
(Joe Barton, SMH 25/4/2014, pg 7)