Remembrance Day at 2nd World War Aquatic Centre
Remembrance Day at 2nd World War Aquatic Centre

Echoes of the sounds of war unite us all

WAR is an undeniable tragedy – millions of brave men and women have braced the harshest of conditions and lost their lives defending their country and their way of life.

But the often forgotten heroes are those that walk on four legs.

Rockhampton woman Joan Darlington’s father Frank Hawkins served in World War I.

He had been injured but he refused to be sent home until the war was over.

It was during this time healing that he developed a special connection with the horses and began working with them.

After the final boat had sailed home and the last gun had been slung down, he stayed behind in France for a year to find homes for the Australian horses that had been left behind.

“They were shooting the horses and he wouldn’t do it so he gave them away and tried to find homes for them,” Joan said.

Frank travelled around France, visiting rich estates, pony clubs and farms, until each horse had been taken in.

Joan still has all the postcards he sent home to his mother during those five years away, as well as the dog tags and medals, which she treasures.

Frank returned to Rockhampton in 1919 and started a family with Joan’s mother in Thangool when he was 51.

“He would say France is full of the horse prints of Australian horses,” Frank’s son-in-law Greg said.

“There are many horses over there now that have been bred from our horses.”

Standing alongside the mighty Fitzroy River under the blazing November sun in Monday’s Remembrance Day tribute, Greg and Joan’s chests glinted with silver, and their eyes glinted with the memories and connections to wartime eras long gone.

Greg had also served in the army for 22 years and served as a Senior Officer in Vietnam and Malaysia.

“In 1967 as a Sergeant I got posted to Malaysia and my father-in-law lived with us - he was in his 70s,” Greg said.

“They said seeing as he was returned serviceman, he could go with me.

“We spent 2.5 years in Malaysia and because the garrison was made up of young married couples, he became the Poppy for the whole battalion.

“He came home and died three weeks later.”

Greg and Joan moved to Rockhampton from the Gold Coast this year and have always been actively involved in Vietnam Veterans Days, Anzac Days and the Red Cross.

For them, coming to events such as these is “very personal”.

“I’m very proud of my dad. For a 19-year-old man to come from a country property (St Lawrence). To read the postcards … they’re beautiful,” Joan said.



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