In early April, I woke up under the stars at a military base in regional Victoria. It was another night out on exercise with my Army Reserve unit – it had been a tough day but I was doing what I love, being a platoon commander in the field. Our unit has a proud history that includes the 10th and 27th Infantry Battalions that were first raised during the Great War.
As I lay there under my ‘hoochie’ – a tarpaulin in Army camouflage that provides refuge from the wind and the rain – I thought about how I got there. Like most of us who serve in the Army Reserve, my family has its own story of war and conflict that continues to have significance today.
In my case, the story took an important turn when I was 12 years old. Until then, there’d been stories of my Great Grandfather Joseph Hume who served in World War 1 and my Great Uncles Roy and Eric Jones and my other Great Grandfather Ernest Stanford who served in World War II but I didn’t know much about them. Then, together with my Mum, Dad and Sister, I went on a family trip to Canberra.
I remember going to the Australian War Memorial and placing a poppy next to Ernest Standford’s name. Then we went to the National Archives and the day took a different turn. My Mum was on a mission: she wanted to find a photograph of her Grandfather, who she never knew.
His story was tragic. After serving in the Middle East and northern Africa, including Tobruk, he was on his way home to his beloved – my Great Grandmother, who’d fallen pregnant with their first child before he left for the war.
I can only imagine the excitement he felt. He’d been away for two years and he was a step closer to being reunited with his family. On his way to Australia his ship called in at Sri Lanka and he had the opportunity to explore.
In a terrible twist, my Great Grandfather never made it home. He was killed in a car crash: a telegram arrived shortly afterwards bearing the news. My Great Grandmother was devastated, and while his memory was never forgotten, my Mother never saw his face – Until that day in Canberra when she saw his photograph for the first time.
I remember her emotion, but I also remember her pride. It was pride that I share and still carry with me particularly when I put on my uniform to serve in the Army Reserve.
Lieutenant Matthew Hume is a 21-year-old Army Reservist, serving with the 10th/27th Battalion, The Royal South Australia Regiment based at Keswick Barracks. In his civilian life, Matthew is a student at Adelaide University – he lives in Mitcham and went to school at Pulteney Grammar School, Adelaide. On Anzac Day, his return from an army exercise last month gave him an opportunity to reflect on his family history and his reasons for serving his country.
Image: LT Matthew Hume on Exercise JACKA RUN 2019 at Puckapunyal Military Area, Victoria.