A moment with Eric Abrahams by Brian Evans

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet one of our last World War One veterans, ERIC ABRAHAMS, at his Pinjarra Hills RSL home. He was in good spirits and very talkative. Beryl his carer said to me, ‘That he loved to talk’. I told him a few of my experiences in Vietnam then he told me one of his.

‘We were on a train heading to the front somewhere in France. Travelling through the lovely French country side we slowed down and pulled up at a station. When we stopped our sergeant came through the carriage and told us, “Under NO circumstances was ANY body to get off the bloody train”.

‘Well, it just so happened where our carriage stopped on the platform was a wooden barrel - the type rum was kept in! We were all imagining what the contents were when one of the chaps said, “I wonder what's in the barrel then”. A lot of suggestions were made as to its contents. The general consensus was that, “It was empty, not worth worrying about, so shut up about it”. But still our minds were working and so were the eyes, not to mention our palates. After all we'd been travelling on this train now for hours and we were very dry. We had water, but that gets boring doesn't it!

‘It didn't take long before someone, a brave chappy, to venture out for a look see, “Well what’d yuzz know it's full”.

‘Back on the train - digger and barrel - the train started to move off as trains do, with the barrel in our carriage. We started into it straight away. Pannikins went hand over hand empty, then back full, rum slopping everywhere, but we didn't mind there was plenty enough for all and then some.

‘We got to our destination. On pulling up at the station our sergeant told us all to, “Fall out”. THIS WE LITERALLY DID! Fall out of our carriage. Our officers were there, including our CO who was not looking too pleased. He started asking from the other end of the line who pilfered the barrel of rum from the station we were stopped at and ordered, "Not to de-train". Nobody owned up to the theft, but I think the smell on our breaths and one of our fellows falling over giggling while standing there gave the game away.’ This was said with the biggest cheekiest grin Eric could manage, ‘All on our carriage had to put in to replace the barrel of rum, bound for an officer’s mess somewhere in France’.

I asked him who he thought killed the Red Baron. His definite answer was, ‘A nest of Aussie Bren Gunners’. The conversation went on for a while. He started to get tired so I left him with his treasure trove of memories.

I left with such an impression of this man (after all he was 103) of the way he spoke, so clear - his recall better than mine. I drove home. Sadly a little while after this great man died.

I will never forget the afternoon I sat and talked to this ‘digger’. This great man, this gentleman - happy with his mates at last.

I only knew you for a little while, but you touched me deeply and I loved you for it Eric, as only one ‘digger’ can love another!

Brian Evans

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