ANZAC – The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
Respected, admired and commemorated for their efforts in saving their nations and allowing the freedom in which we live today.
Lest we forget.
Meet John Smith. He is a 15 year old boy of the early 20th century, living by cricket and just starting to get those hormonal ticks which make him interested in Elizabeth, whose hair he used to pull when they were little.
The bugger blushes when she is around, honestly, bright as a tomato.
It has just hit mid July and he celebrated his 16th birthday with his mates, and a homemade cake from his mum on the patio of his backyard. His skin is peeling at the tip of his nose from the harsh Australian sun but in the winter, it feels too good to go back inside.
Two weeks later, his mum comes home with a stricken look on her face. Britain is at war. Therefore, Australia is at war. On August 4th 1914. John can feel bubbles of excitement in his stomach, and he rushes out the door to meet his friends, especially James. He does not notice his mum holding her stomach as if in pain. His little sister is still chewing on her bunny ear.
He thinks he is pretty muscular for a 16 year old. He practices a little swagger. He stops shaving every day, despite his stubble barely growing. Yep, Johnny-boy, you are in, he thinks cockily to himself. With that uniform and the mates, this will be over by Christmas and I shall come home a hero.
Medals. Decorated. Revered.
Not like his teacher, Mr Brookes, a ‘conscientious objector’. He just doesn’t want to fight, that white-feathered bloke, John has seen the fear in his eyes. What a coward. What an unpatriotic fool.
Johnny is waiting to enlist, James behind him, and can hear his heart thudding. What if they say I am too young. What if? Oh Johnny, the government would never say no to a voluntary recruit. If a boy of 15 can get in, why can’t you?
An officer sizes him up and down, nods, and sends him off. Teeth check, chest check, do you have any disabilities? Are you healthy?
It is 1915 now, and John has been fighting for a while. He cannot say the conditions are ideal, living in a trench where the food is harder than rock, the water must be boiled and the mud is their bed. But it is for Australia. For his country. To keep the nation safe, the government said so.
It is 1916 now, and John is starting to feel tired. Tired of the waterlogged boots and the unruly French winter. Tired of the constant smell of rotting bodies surrounding him and the smoke of gunfire sticking to his skin. Tired of limping since they amputated some of his gangrened toes, leaving little lumps at the end of a bloated foot. Tired of sleeping with his eyes open in the case of enemy attack.
So, so tired.
A rat the size of a cat is sniffing around his canned, sloppy beef and he does not even care. It is already off anyway. James is going over the top* tomorrow and he is an excellent shot. John is certain he will make it, even though a niggling feeling keeps telling him that has never worked. He pushes the thought away and gives James his boiled water and a hardtack biscuit to soak it in.
James is smiling shakily, his hands full of machine guns, his backpack sagging from the weight. He is in position now. All he needs is the whistle to blow. John can see him, and just before the shrill whistling begins, James looks at him with a smile. John grins back. He can do it.
2 minutes into the attack. John looks up over the parapet, his eyes scanning for soldiers running. No Man’s Land** has claimed each one, its mud soaking in their bodies, never to see the light of day again. There is silence. And John realises he is still looking for James to come running back.
It is 1918 now, and John does not even know what he is doing. Where has he been, what has he seen? It is early November now, and John is still wearing that tattered coat and still in those blistering boots, his body that of a man’s and too big for his clothes. Is he really 20? He cannot think, only react on autopilot to the bombs exploding and to the generals barking.
Any shrapnel, grazing his skin, is not even felt anymore. It is as if it is a permanent part of the air. Along with the blood and the grey. John is grim. When was the last time he smiled? He has written so many letters home but received only 3 back. Has his sister started school? Do they still have school?
The sky is murky, foreshadowing more rain, and this night, it is his job to keep watch and fix the barbed wire. He is on the front. And so there he finds himself, with the rain sluicing down his back, a gun at his front, trying to keep the barbed wire in rolls.
Pricks. Cuts. Wounds.
And that is when he hears the whistling. The enemy, whistling. And just before the bomb is dropped, he swears he sees James. Not tough, haunted James. The 15 year old baby face with more pimples than freckles. And just as he reaches for him, everything goes black.
One week later, the Armistice is signed. War is officially declared over. But the turmoil does not end. How can it when Mrs Smith is only now informed of her son’s report as a missing person? Is he dead, is he alive, why can he not be found?
There is no one to tell her that John is scattered in a million pieces, his dog tag swallowed up in the swamp. His sister was so happy when her friends told her of their uncles, their dads, their brothers’ return. She now waits by the fence daily so she can be the first to see her brother when he comes home.
After all, her mother’s telegram said ‘missing’. And to a 6 year old, missing does indeed mean, missing.
*Over The Top – A technique in WW1 in which soldiers took all their belongings and ran in a line from the top of their trenches with hopes of reaching the enemy trench and capturing it after crossing No Man’s Land
**No Man’s Land – A swampy, death trap between the two trenches in which the constant bombing and fire made its land hazardous to anyone crossing it
This is not a true story, but to commemorate so many soldiers, whether they have died or gone missing (rest in peace)or lived to tell their tales, I have made ANZAC cookies as tradition expects (Part One).
I have twisted the recipe to make something more for the generations of people who deserve the world for their efforts. If Karma is real, these people should lack for nothing on returning back to the world, which took so much from them without reason.
ANZAC Apple Pie Ice Cream
Adapted From: We Are Not Martha
- 1 ½ cups full cream milk
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup thickened cream
- 1 vanilla bean, horizontally split
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 medium apples, cored, peeled and cubed
- Lemon juice
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tbs plain flour
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tbs maple syrup – I completely forgot to add it in but trust me, if you make this, add it
- Butter, softened to room temperature
Cookie Mix In – 1 batch Anzac Cookie Recipe
- Preheat oven to 205 degrees C. Rub a generous amount of butter in a large oven safe dish
- Add in the apple slices and drizzle with lemon juice
- In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, spice and maple syrup
- Sprinkle the apples with this mixture and toss to make sure they are fully coated
- Cover the tin with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the apples are soft and caramelised
- Meanwhile, combine the milk and sugar over low heat in a saucepan until bubbles come up around the edges and the milk has a slightly translucent look to it
- Whisk the egg yolks together in a separate bowl
- Once the milk has heated, pour half into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, and once it is well combined, pour back into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture
- Put back on low heat and add in the vanilla bean + its seeds along with the cinnamon sticks and cream (I had to slum it with cinnamon from a tin and vanilla essence)
- Stir constantly until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon – it will take time but patience will yield a thicker and creamier ice cream in the end
- Once the custard is the desired consistency, take off heat and sieve into a large bowl, discarding the bean and the stick
- Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface to avoid a skin forming and refrigerate until cool
- Place the baked apples in a box and refrigerate until cool
- Mix both cooled custard and apples together then refrigerate for another 2 hours to ensure maximum flavour mingle
- Churn according to instructions of ice cream maker.
- After it is fully churned, stir through broken up pieces of ANZAC Cookies throughout it and freeze before spooning straight from the freezer…
- Bake the oatmeal cookies again for a little longer (5 minutes) at 180 degrees C for crunchier cookies in the ice cream
- Drizzle through with caramel for a caramel apple pie ice cream – I drizzled mine with butterscotch sauce leftover from making Sticky Date Pudding for my brother’s birthday just like last year