They Simply Fade Away – with the 48th in France
by J A Williamson
ISBN 978-0-85905-236-8, (1939, 2009), Soft Cover, A4, 108 pp, illustrated, 310grams
$30.00* + POST
From the Foreword:-
John Alexander Williamson, 1886 – 1971, was born at Bonnyrigg, Scotland and emigrated to Australia in 1911. His life as a migrant, struggling to get a start, is detailed in an appendix to this book.
Williamson enlisted in the AIF in 1916, on his second attempt, and served in the 48th Battalion in France.
As many other Westralians did in the tween wars years, Williamson tested his writing skills in The Western Mail columns. Under the non-de-plume of “Don Zed (48th), Perth” he published anecdotes and reminiscences of his war experiences. One of these has been included as an appendix. Other items are held in the Battye Library as Acc. 5084A, MN 1654.
When his reminiscences were sent in to The Western Mail in 1936, the editor, Cyril Longmore, “Non Com”, said “Without any hesitation I say it is a splendid effort, and in the literary sense far above the majority of the war books I have read, many of them really good books too. I am sure that Angus and Robertson will publish it for you. …and congratulations on a first class bit of work.”
Unfortunately A&R did not publish the book. But in 1939 Longmore serialized it in his ‘Digger’s Diary’ pages with extensive advertising, and to the acclaim of many.
Among those who wrote with congratulations was A.J. Mathieson of Menzies who had been a POW in Germany where he “had a hellish time.” This was, he explained, “...because of the propaganda pumped into me on our side. I hated the people intensely until towards the end. They were simply glorious in their defeat. They were poisoned with the same dope. …Poor silly German masses. They are just as silly as we are. They are to be slaughtered because of Dictators and we because of mock democracy.”
This prescient letter was written on the outbreak of World War Two, for which Mathieson’s sentiments were even more appropriate – as they are still today!
Williamson kept this letter, and expressed similar sentiments, as have most old soldiers who have been in action, in the postscript to his war memoirs. When the puppet politicians and their finance masters are forced, in chains, to the killing fields, then, perhaps, there will be the end of ‘wars to end all wars’.
Now, over 70 years on, Williamson’s book may get a wider audience and take its place in Australian literature.