The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.
By Janet Mathewson
You know, the army sure is a funny place to be sometimes. I wonder who makes the decisions about what happens to us. Some of those decisions don’t seem to make much sense at the time to a soldier in the front lines.
My name is George Turton and I am a Driver in the AIF. I enlisted in the army at Lake Cargelligo with some of my mates in 1914 when I was 22 and we were sent to Melbourne for training before sailing to England.
We sailed on the “S.S. Saba” to England, and then on to France in July 1915. I saw so much death and destruction while I was serving in France, and the only way I could seem to see my way through it all was simply to do my best, the “Aussie” way, whenever I could get away with it. This made life a little more bearable when I had to deal with some of those Pommie officers who thought life and war came from out of a rule book. It became almost like a game to me. They wanted to instil discipline, but most of us Aussies wanted to do things our own way, which didn’t come out of any rule book.
Because of this, over time I was charged with so many little offences - absent from parade, being improperly dressed, disobedience of orders when I was absent from the trucks without permission. I didn’t mind the fines, as it made me feel a little more human in the face of all those stupid rules. I sure got docked a lot of pay over time, but as I said, I didn’t mind as it was fun and seemed worth it to snub my nose at those officers. But I still did my job as best I could.
I was granted leave to the UK in September 1917 and saw a lot of London and other places that I had dreamed of when I was a lad living in Lake Cargelligo. It seemed like whole new world, but this one was civilised … not like the stench of death and rotting corpses of the trenches in France.
But then, to my complete surprise, in December 1917 they awarded me the Military Medal, of all things. Although as a Driver my role is different to that of a soldier, I am still in so much danger as I deliver sorely-needed ammunition, water and food to the men in the trenches whose supplies were sometimes almost exhausted. The whine of a bullet very near my head often reminds me of how fragile our life is here on the battlefield.
I was able to pick up and transport nearly 20 men at different times under heavy fire from the German lines. The fear and noise and smell of gunfire never leaves you, and I feel I was very lucky not to have stopped a bullet myself, but I wanted to help those poor blighters stuck in the line of fire and unable to move because of their injuries.
I was pretty thrilled to receive that Military Medal, which was awarded for “Bravery in the Field”, but I feel that I did no more than any other soldier. We all do the best we can in horrific conditions, and if we are able to get their ammunition to them when it is needed so badly or transport them to a hospital in time to save their lives, our job is well done. We don’t ask for a medal for doing our bit.
Now I am taking my medal home to Australia on Special Leave after being injured and unable to continue my driving duties. I will be glad to get back to my family and try to live a normal life.
Yes, it has been an adventure, but I would not like to do it all again.