Any journey book or movie gets me .. so I watched The Last Bus last evening. I was watching as it certainly ticks the journey genre that I love – but there was a surprise in it…yesterday was Anzac Day, a day to commemorate the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who load down their lives in World War 1. But it has become a chance to honour soldiers of all ilks and ages.
Exercise in storytelling
I watched it as an exercise in storytelling – as a story and an exercise to show how a stage by stage story can unfold with surprises. Much like the Camino book I’m writing at present.
But there is a moment, when a teenage boy slouching about at the bus stop, glances over at Tom, the old man on the journey, and asks him. so, were you in the War? And Tom admits to lying about his age to join at 15 as a stretcher-bearer.
His hardest moments – who to put onto the stretcher to save, and who to leave to die.
It reminded me a story my Dad told me about the ’71 ops, where the Indian Army spliced Pakistan in two to create Bangadesh. Disproving the ridiculous colonial notion that a nation could be built on a common majority religion alone.
We travelled up to the front to spend Christmas with Dad, and he took us around to see the deployments – of course we were very pleased to enter captured Pakistan territory, and see the signs that we were crossing the border etc etc. Gape at burnt out Patton tanks, etc etc
But then, Dad took us to the actual site his unit was deployed, on a rocky riverbed near Kathua.
His unit had two jobs,
1. Ferry the tanks up to the battlefield on massive tank transporter trucks (very glamorous and warrior like)
2. Stretcher the wounded and dead back to base hospitals. (not so glamorous)
3. In the mornings, hose down the rocks, to wash away the bloodstains.
The glory and glamour of war dissipated quickly in the cold of that rocky riverside, where stretcher bearers stumbled and staggered over the slippery rocks with the sound of non stop bombardment and flares to light up the night.
Lest we forget.