Widows of warriors come to pay tribute

Widows of warriors come to pay tribute

A little heart scare wasn’t going to keep Jean Pockett from being on Gallipoli for the Anzac centenary commemorations this Saturday.

Just after the 91-year-old arrived in Turkey, she didn’t feel well and had to see the doctor.

“He said ‘I’m sure you’ve got a heart murmur’. I said what a load of garbage,” Mrs Pockett said, sitting in an armchair at her hotel in the southern Turkish city of Canakkale.

Mrs Pockett is the widow of Private Arthur Pockett, who fought with Australian forces on the Western Front during the First World War.

She’s one of 10 World War One widows who have travelled to Gallipoli – a group who between them have a deeper understanding of the sacrifice and hardship of war than all the 10,500 people who will see the dawn service on the historic battlefields.

Arthur Pockett lost both legs as a result of his wounds at Passchendaele.

He and Jean met and married after the war, when Jean was his neighbour and began helping the much older Arthur to look after his cat.

Married life was difficult as Arthur suffered continually from his injuries.

“He was on morphine all the time and it was not a very happy union really because he spent more time in hospital than at home.”

But married life also taught Jean about the difficulties faced by war widows, who have often given so much to support men left damaged by war.

Mrs Pockett is the widow of Private Arthur Pockett, who fought with Australian forces on the Western Front during the First World War. Image: AAP

Mrs Pockett is the widow of Private Arthur Pockett, who fought with Australian forces on the Western Front during the First World War. Image: AAP

She is deeply involved in the War Widows Guild of Queensland, the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation and volunteers at hospitals.

With her commitment to the legacy of soldiers, Mrs Pockett has a special reason for being in Gallipoli this year.

“I was on the spot where we’re going for Anzac Day over 40 years ago, when it was a paddock with sheep grazing on it and men going around with metal detectors pulling bombs out of the ground,” she said.

“Now I want to see it when it’s all finished and I’m glad that he’s up there looking to see that I am.”

All 10 war widows – who were much younger than their returned servicemen husbands – will be guests of honour at the Gallipoli dawn service.

They have visited the battlefield sites and already the experience has been moving.

Ruth Littler’s husband Lieutenant Guy Littler was sent from Egypt to the Western Front where he collected a lifelong souvenir – shrapnel in his neck.

His father and brother fought at Gallipoli and in Europe, and his father was killed on the Western Front.

Seeing the Gallipoli cliffs for the first time was an emotional experience for Mrs Littler. “I was blown away,” she said.

“Imagine them – I can’t believe what they went through.”

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