In 1990 I visited the small coal-mining town of Kurri Kurri in N.S.W. to call upon the parents of ‘Ted’ Richard Lloyd, killed in action on 6th April 1967 by a ‘Jumping Jack’ mine. He had died there on that day as we banged star pickets into the dry paddy soil. He was our first victim of ‘The Fence’.
An old man and woman opened the door of this small somewhat impoverished ground floor unit, tucked away in one of the dry, dreary back streets of the town. Spread out on the lounge were photos of, and letters from their son. They had been perusing them at the very time of my intrusion ... 23 years after their son’s death.
♪♪ Mem’ries …
Light the corners of my mind;
Misty water-coloured memories …
Of the way we were.
Just scattered pictures …
Of the smiles we left behind;
Smiles we gave to one another …
For the way we were. ♪♪
- from the song The Way We Were, sung by Barbara Streisand, 1973.
Richard 'Ted' Lloyd - KIA 6 April 1967
Seems just a short time elapsed,
Since I took this photograph;
There’s you on your bike,
Giving that cheeky little laugh.
And here’s us on the farm,
Oh God! It’s as if yesterday!
So much I failed to tell you,
Things I never got to say.
Here’s your mum and your brother,
Holding onto your little hand;
Your first day at school,
Entering your first ‘foreign land’.
Oh how she has changed,
So tired and drawn;
Deep lines and grey quickly masked,
When she got word you were gone.
And look at you here, lined up,
Numbered like you were in gaol;
Conscripts! ... Not convicts!
One needed clout to get bail.
This curt note from the Army:
“Dear Sir, ... I regret to inform,
Your son for his country,
Was killed in action at dawn!”
Your letters in this bundle,
I read again and again;
Just trying to be with you son,
I’m well aware it’s in vain.
Not long to go now for me,
All of these years, in Hell, slowly passed;
Out of their way, we’ll meet up,
I hope, in heaven at last.
You know, I watch every April,
All your mates marching by;
I see your image, then remember,
And can only ask: “Why?”
Foreign faces I greet;
Your tombstone in the church-yard,
Each day I pass down the street.
Oh God, ... I know I sound bitter,
Should put a smile on my face,
Yet, you were taken to stop entry,
Of some phantom, northern race.
And I’m supposed to forget,
So tell me son! ... How? ... Can you please?
Since they took it all in an instant,
Except these few precious ... memories.