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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

The trauma of war and a father remembered in song

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My father, Lt. Col. Mervyn Roderick Jeanes was one of the most decorated WWII ANZAC soldiers, a Rat of Tobruk, Captain and company commander in 1941, and mentioned several times in dispatches for his bravery against the formidable Axis forces of Rommel. In New Guinea and then as Commander of the 2/43rd Battalion in Borneo he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross.

Lt Col Mervyn Jeanes (left) speaks with General Douglas MacArthur and Lt Gen Sir Leslie J. Morshead after forces land in North Borneo.
Lt Col Mervyn Jeanes (left) speaks with General Douglas MacArthur and Lt Gen Sir Leslie J. Morshead after forces land in North Borneo.

My dad never spoke of his experiences. It wasn’t the Australian way to speak of feelings, neither suffering nor victory. Nowadays, due to the unpopularity of war since Vietnam, soldiers are too often socially silenced. The legacy is a higher prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Untold stories allow associated problems to fester – increased alcoholism; higher risk of homelessness (an estimated 3000 veterans on the streets in Australia); suicide, rage, depression and like my father, premature death.

My dad survived and lived relatively well, but was somehow haunted by his soundless suffering, the effect as in so many families, a shadow over time. The undercurrents are hard to identify, but undeniably influence culture and society. Why else do so many young people now turn out to the Dawn Service on Anzac Day? Intuitively we know something needs to be honoured there, not glorifying of war, but something deeper.

I believe healing occurs through song, story and conversation. That’s why I have written this song for my dad and for other Anzacs. It’s too late for him but not for those living. Streets of Adelaide has already touched so many people with stories similar to mine.

Twenty perc cent of the proceeds from this song will go to Soldier On, an esteemed charity working to alleviate these issues for returned soldiers.

And you know, I too, never asked! Then it was too late.

Son’s Ode to an Anzac Hero –

Streets of Adelaide video & audio streaming: http://oldsoldier.com.au/home

Twitter: #oldsoldiersong

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StreetsofAdelaide?ref=ts&fref=ts

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/streetsofadelaide/streets-of-adelaide-old-soldier-going-home

 

 


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks to my niece Nicci Foster for this awesome research sent today on HENRY ALBERT FRANCO (her Great Great Uncle – my Great Uncle).
    He served in Gallipoli and died in France. Received a Military Medal and Serbian Silver Medal.

    Henry Franco and his sister Josephine were part of a very difficult to solve portion of my family tree research. Henry’s mother Nora Fleming seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. It took painstaking research and help from some savvy geneology researchers that gave me their time for free to get to the bottom of it! As it turned out, Nora was born on a boat, somewhere between Ireland and Australia as they headed out to make a better life for their family. Nora had two children, Henry, and Josephine (my Great Grandmother). Nora had another trick up her sleeve too geneology wise – she married a man by the name of Francisco Franco – Francisco Francis – Frank Frances. And he, is STILL missing from my tree! Anyway… about Henry.

    From the War Memorial: 1098 Private (Pte) Henry Albert Franco, 28th Battalion. A camel driver from Birkenhead, SA prior to enlistment, Pte Franco embarked with C Company from Fremantle on HMAT Ascanius on 19 June 1915. On 9 June 1916 he was awarded the Military Medal for “conspicuous work with covering parties to Engineers…at Gallipoli. Was wounded…and his chief regret was that he had to leave his company”. He was also awarded the Serbian Silver Medal for “distinguished services rendered during the MEF campaign”. On 16 February 1918 he died from pleurisy in the New Zealand Stationary Hospital, Wisques, France, aged 34 and was buried in the Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France.

    Last year I finally got to Canberra and the War Memorial and placed a poppy next to Henry’s name. Henry was a brave soldier, and I can’t help but think that he inspired his nephews to go to war, almost 30 years later.

    RIP Pte Henry Alfred Franco

    Lest We Forget.

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