On Friday I attended a funeral. Weatherwise, it was a rainy bleak day befitting the sadness we feel when saying a final goodbye to someone. Otherwise it was a day of happy recollection and celebration of the long and full life of Verdun Henry Walsh, who in his 99 years had touched many people, demonstrated by the large gathering.
I had not known Verdun as well as most at the funeral, only having met him on a dozen or more occasions over the years. Those occasions were Anzac Day reunions of the 2/12 Field Company RAE in which both Verdun and my late father, Alfred Ernest Morrison, had served during WWII. Not only had they served together but they had also been prisoners of war (POWs) together after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. Initially in Changi gaol, Verdun was shipped to Japan where he spent the duration of the war, while Dad was part of F Force on the notorious Burma Railway before returning to Changi.
The day was particularly poignant for me because later this week will be the 21st anniversary of my father’s death at 79 years of age. Like most POWs, Dad did not speak of his war experiences except for a few humourous episodes. So even with my own reading and research I have only a superficial knowledge of the hardships that he would have experienced.
It also makes me sad to realise how little I really know of my many aspects of my father’s life, and that after 21 years how many of my memories of my father are tending to fade. Family history research does help to fill some of the gaps, and also provide a means of preserving details of the lives of my ancestors and particularly the close family that I knew and loved.