AS A little girl, Jenny Conkey wondered why her family was not allowed to make much noise around her grandfather, Herbert Fiveash.
“We had to tiptoe around the house and we could not yell and scream and bash and crash like other kids,” Mrs Conkey said.
“Now I know why.
“It was because his nerves were well and truly shot from the war.”
On the 100th anniversary of Herbert Fiveash’s severe wounding at Gallipoli during the August, 1915, offensive against the Turks, Mrs Conkey and her family held a reunion and celebrated his life using memoirs he wrote in the 1950s as a focal point to recall his achievements before, during and after the war.
The memoirs became a book published by Mrs Conkey’s wife, Greg, a former newspaper proprietor and now Wagga City Councillor.
“It was such a great yarn about how he was born in the slums of London and his early upbringing,” Mr Conkey said.
“It was right out of Dickens how he described life around the slums.”
Herbert Fiveash gained a job as a message boy and then migrated to Australia as a teenager and worked around Toowoomba as a wood cutter.
In late 1914, he received a letter containing a white feather dipped in blood. Someone was accusing him of cowardice for not enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force.
Mr Fiveash, 19, had been thinking about enlisting but was putting it off because of work.
The letter made him act immediately.
On August 9, 1915, Herbert Fiveash was in the middle of a charge at Lone Pine at Gallipoli where men were being cut down all around him.
“A dozen or so fellows in front of me were almost immediately knocked flat,” he wrote in his memoirs.
“I leaped over the fallen bodies, gaining pace, and almost reached the edge of a precipice, when what seemed to be a solid door hit me from head to toe.
“My running stopped dead and I remember stretching both arms up to the fullest extent, the rifle still held in the right hand just like one has seen in illustrations. That’s all”
Shot in the chest, Mr Fiveash would write a detailed account of how he managed to make it back to the Australian lines while a Turkish machine gun “played a tune on the spot, just missing my head but filling my neck and head with leaves until my cover was only stunted stalks”.
Mr Fiveash survived the chest wound, although the bullet stayed in his body until he died of cancer in 1964.
He served on the Western Front before marrying Elizabeth in England in 1920 and returning to Australia and settling in the NSW northern tablelands.
“I think writing his life’s story was therapy for him,” Mrs Conkey said.
Some words from Mr Fiveash’s memoirs have been adapted into lyrics for songs composed by one of Mr and Mrs Conkey’s sons, Jonathon.
“The older boys have read it, and read it and read it and are very proud of their great grandfather,” Mrs Conkey said of the book.
Mrs Conkey said the memoirs did not change her view of her grandfather, but they did give new insight.
“I just know I loved him, but until I became an adult I did not understand about the traumas of war and damage to the nerves,” she said.
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