A TOUCHING, pre-recorded Anzac Day message has described mission, grace and compassion as equally applicable on the battlefield as during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic perhaps we can draw some strength from our forebears,” St Laurence’s College head of senior school and Army Reserve Major Liam Herbert said.
Major Herbert spoke of the Battle of Hamel, a significant tactical victory for the Australian army fighting in France during the First World War, as he delivered an online message for students and old boys unable to attend the college’s traditional Anzac service.
The capture of the town of Hamel on July 4, 1918, cemented the reputation of commander General John Monash, yet it claimed 1400 Australian lives.
It was a sign of an allied forces breakthrough after three years of trench warfare marked by frightful casualties for minimal gains.
Major Herbert spoke of the valour of Queenslander Harry Dalziel, from near Atherton, who, after the battle was involved in a fierce counterattack, in which a wounded 15-year-old German tried to surrender.
“Harry realised that the battlefield was no place for a youth,” Major Herbert said.
“Two Americans who were with Harry at the time levelled their bayonets. Harry yelled at the Americans ‘Stop. Don’t move or I’ll blow your bloody head off!’.
Later, after the youth had surrendered and Harry was replenishing ammunition in camp, an older German on a stretcher with a foot blown off called over to Harry and said: “Comrade, you saved my son.”
“Harry Dalzeil managed to crawl and dodge his way back to the frontlines and was found later that night still at his machine gun post severely wounded. Later he would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroics.”
Major Herbert said Harry Dalziel’s story was testament to an important truth.
“No matter what the conditions, no matter what other people say and do, there is always room for compassion,” he said.
“No matter the trials or the challenges you may experience in Term 2, there is always an opportunity to serve, and always a calling to fulfil your mission as a Laurie’s gentleman.
“When you may feel frustrated in your confinement I urge you to draw compassion from Harry Dalziel’s compassion during the battle of Hamel.
“A man with an undying sense of mission combined with an intuitive grace and compassion for his enemy in a war where compassion was no existent.”
St Laurence’s College ANZAC Day Service 2020 can be found here.