ANZAC Day Centenary - 25th April, 2015

The centenary of ANZAC Day is approaching, (ANZAC Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps), which commemorates the anniversary of the first engagement of those southern hemisphere troops, at Gallipoli, Turkey in April 1915 where they fought alongside Irish soldiers from the Munster and Leinster Fusiliers and the Connaught Rangers from Ireland as well as other soldiers from across the British Empire, with terrible losses and little success, in what was a poorly planned, doomed second front, which had been mooted by Winston Churchill as an initiative to shorten the war.

I listened to a radio program last Sunday, The History Show, on RTE, about ANZAC Day. Afterwards, I thought about my Australian cousins, (well actually they are Brody and Brett cousins, on my mother's side), the Boyce family, who emigrated to Australia from Kilmoyler, Bansha, Co. Tipperary, around 1860. Four generations later, one of them, Martin (Marty) Boyce, has penned a few beautiful and poignant poems about his family who went to fight in the war to end all wars, a hundred years ago this year. I thought I'd share, (with his permission) three of his poems with you.

I hope you can spare a few moments to remember those brave young men, all of them, Boyces included, who died in the Great War.

George Boyce married Margaret Brett, both from Tipperary and they emigrated to Australia in 1853. They had 4 sons and 6 daughters. Only one son, John Boyce, survived to adulthood. He married Margaret Creamer and they in turn had 7 sons and 2 daughters. Four of the Boyce boys enlisted and served in WWI, but only two were to return alive to Australia. Both of them died tragically shortly after returning. The Boyce family paid a terrible price for their patriotism.
George Henry Boyce (Jim): 22nd Battalion Killed in action April 1918 Buried Doulens France

Thomas Boyce 23rd Battalion: Killed in action Oct 1917 Buried Tynecot Cemetery Belgium

Francis Patrick Boyce (Frank) MM: 1st Aust Div Signals Awarded the Military Medal for his actions during the attack on Polygon Wood

Edward Boyce (Eddie): 5th Aust Div Signals

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them ..."

Letters From The Front 

My Dearest Mother, Jimmy here, I’m writing from the ship
Apart from getting seasick, this has been a lovely trip
I can’t say where we’re headed, the brass won’t let us know
But I’m itching to get in the fight; this ship is too darn slow
Dearest mother I am writing you from somewhere in the sand
I can’t tell you anymore than that, I know you understand
The days are long and hot, they send us marching every day
I’ll tell you more of where we are, as soon as I can say
Mother dear its Jim again, we’re moving to the front
I think it’s called Gallipoli; we can’t wait for the stunt
We’ll show the world old Aus is here, they’ll see us at our best
They will see that good old Aussie is much better than the rest
Dearest mother please don’t worry when the telegram arrives
I had a pretty rough trot, but they say I will survive
I came down with enteric; they are sending me to you
Get the brothers home well sit around and have a drink or two
Dearest Mother it is jimmy here, I’m writing from my tent
We ship out tomorrow morning I don’t know where three months went
Tell Frank and Tom and Eddie not to rush up to enlist
I don’t think they will I told them stuff, I think you get the gist
Mother dear its Jim again from somewhere near the front
We are waiting at the jump off tape, to go in for the stunt
We think we can give old jerry a sore and bloody nose
I’ll write again when we get out and tell you how it goes
Mother dear young Jim again, why did you let Frank come?
I told him not to sign up; gee you should have stopped him mum
I’m sitting in my dugout as the barrage thunders in
A man is going crazy from the terror and the din
Mrs Boyce it is my duty to inform you that your son
Private George Henry Boyce Service number 1121
Has been reported injured as they attacked the range
We will notify you if we find that there is any change
Dearest Mother I apologise, I didn’t get to write
I’ve been laid up in hospital; it gave me quite a fright
We got caught up in a barrage as we waited to attack
So now I have some souvenirs to bring home in my back
Geez mother Frank has told me Ed and Tom are on their way
Four sons at the front is way too much for you to pay
I hear that Frank has made a dash, and made old Aus look good
They say he’ll get a medal for the stunt down at the Wood
Mother dear we’ve got Fritz running he has lost his will to fight
He wont face us in the trenches we can see the end in sight
I can’t wait to get back to the farm to walk on Aussie soil
The last three years have aged me; it has really been a toil
Mrs Boyce it is my duty to inform you that your son
Private George Henry Boyce service number 1121
Has been identified at Doulens as one of many dead
He went quickly without suffering -a gunshot to the head

© Copyright November 11, 2011 by Martin “Marty” Boyce

And another tribute to the Boyce boys ...


Great uncle Jim was first to go, Gallipoli and France
Then uncles Frank and Eddie thought that they should take a chance
three brothers now in uniform to serve their mother land
next uncle Tom enlisted he was off to tempt fate’s hand
Poor Tom would only last three months, a mother’s tears were shed
three sons were still in battle, but the eldest one was dead
throughout the war the battles raged and men fell all around
but the Boyces were resilient and stayed above the ground
Frank was made an officer and awarded for his toil
in a crucial battle fought and won upon the Flemish soil
he kept the comms lines open as a barrage thunder’d in
was crucial to a victory the allies had to win
Jim remained in infantry his battles honours showed
the names like Paschendale and the dreaded Menin Road
thrice wounded and sent back to fight like others of his band
but still our Jim avoided taking up a piece of land
Eddie joined the signals corps, by all accounts was quite a lad
he was in a bit of trouble, seems the army thought him bad
but he slogged it out until a gas attack left Eddie blind
and the scars of battles haunted him they left a shattered mind
with victory seeming closer, when the end was now in sight
Jim went into the battle with a feeling things weren’t right
Jim lost his final battle as an enfilading round
despatched him, it was at Doullens he’d bought his piece of ground
Four sons had left Australia, but two were left behind
Frank returned a hero, poor Eddie came home blind
Tom is buried now at Tyne Cot with thousands more who died
Jim lies buried down in Doullens with a tommy by his side
Frank and Eddie never were the same when they got home
they never were to settle, they were often prone to roam
Eddie took his life one night a tortured soul at rest
Frank was dead at forty five, lasted longer than the rest
My Great Grand mother lost her boys, the war gods took their toll
the Boyce name now is etched in bronze upon the honour roll
our wish is that humanity would never want to start
another war, we’ve done our bit, the Boyces played their part

© Copyright November 11, 2011 by Martin “Marty” Boyce


Each April we will gather to recall a solemn day
it’s etched into our character, it is the Aussie way
We gather to remember those who fell on foreign soil
acknowledging their courage all the sacrifice and toil
The dead revered as heroes to a man they paid a price
In dugouts they endured much, the shelling, rats and lice
Another generation heard the war drums booming beat
again the streets resounded to the sound of marching feet
Another generation faced a foe across the world
across the globe the brand new Aussie banners were unfurled
the losses not as heavy yet the war gods took their toll
grieving sweethearts, wives and mothers felt the losses in their soul
It seems each generation has a price they have to pay
a tax the gods demand so we can live our lives this way
Every decade there is rattling of sabres, beating drum
again our soldiers face a foe resisting what will come
Young lives are lost a family grieves another wasted life
A child with no father, a young widow, once a wife
remember all, our fallen, for they paid a heavy price
remember too, the living,sometimes thank you will suffice

© Copyright August 29, 2013 Martin “Marty” Boyce

To the right is the Female Relatives Badge issued by the Australian Defence Department to the nearest female relative of soldiers. Catherine Boyce’s (nee Creamer) badge consists of the badge and 3 bars, honouring her 4 sons who served in WWI.

In 1935, when the first visitors traveled to Gallipoli to remember their war dead, Kemal Ataturk, representing the Turkish Government, addressed the gathered mourners with this poem:

"Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well

This coming Saturday, all the parties will be represented again, at Gallipoli; the Turks, the Irish, the Gurkhas, the Indians, the Australians, the New Zealders and the British, all remembering their lost generation. Amongst them will be Irish President, Michael D. Higgins. Personally, this Saturday, I will re-read these poems and offer a prayer for all those young men whose lives were destroyed in that cataclysm of War. May they Rest in Peace.

Post Script; The Anzac's participation in WWI while costly in human lives, was a nation-building exercise that worked. While the Anzac veterans returned to a new Auatralia and New Zealand, two new nations on an independence trajectory from the British Empire and their troops seen as heroes, the returning Irish came home to a nation that was in open rebellion to the Empire, and where having served as Irishmen in a British uniform, were now seen by the majority of the Irish as traitors and collaborators against the Irish Republican ideals. The Irish victims of Gallipoli were quickly forgotten, though whole streets in Dublin and Cork had been robbed of their menfolk, now most were dead or wounded, or tainted. There was no room for returning heroes, just for the home grown rebel heroes, and few of the WWI veterans had any empathy with them. In Yeat's words, 'a terrible beauty has been born'.

For more on this story and for many other stories, feel free to contact me;
Brian Nolan, Galway Walks - Walking Tours of Galway Website

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Tags: ANZAC, Australia, Bay, Beach, Boyce, British, Brody, Churchill, Connaught, Dardanelles, More…Dublin, Egypt, Fusiliers, Gallipoli, German, Great, Gurkhas, Leinster, Munster, New, Nolan, Ottoman, Rangers, Rememberance, Somme, Suvla, Turkey, Turkish, V, WW1, WWI, War, Ypres, Zealand

Comment by Marty Boyce on April 23, 2015 at 6:42am

Thanks for honoring our family Brian , as I mentioned earlier today there were in fact seven from our family that served in WW1  the four Boyce brothers mentioned and three of their cousins. For me the tragedy for my direct family was the fact that the boys mother was already a widow at the start of the war and then lost two of her sons to the fighting . 

For those who may be interested the majority of my ANZAC themed poetry is located in this link


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