And so within a month both brothers were gone. It took around five weeks for word of Alec’s death to reach home, as it had when Goldy went missing. The family was grief-stricken but stoically fought back overt expressions of their sorrow. No doubt the pain of losing two sons would have still been there 11 years later when the Reverend Raws received the correspondence from the Memorial enquiring about the letters. When copies were made available to the official historian, Charles Bean, he was so impressed by Alec’s descriptions of Pozières that he quoted them extensively in the Official History. The Memorial’s Director, Treloar, said “They exhibit the horror of Pozières more vividly than any writing I know.”
As was the case for so many in great battles like the Somme, neither Alec or Goldy’s bodies were ever recovered, so they have no known grave. Their names and their sacrifice are however, recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France and on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.
Letters of condolence from some of the boys’ comrades also pay tribute to these men. Alec’s >quiet courage was recognised while Goldy was ‘utterly dependable’ and gallant in the heat of battle. A final line for both read:
They were good fearless soldiers, and were lost in bravely and devotedly doing their duty. To give one’s life for King and country and the principle of humanity and righteousness is the supreme sacrifice. They made it.
One of Alec Raws’ letters describing Pozières will be on display in the ANZAC voices exhibition at the Australian War Memorial until 30 November 2014.
- Australian War Memorial Private Record, 2DRL/0481 at www.awm.gov.au/collection/2DRL/0481
- Records of an Australian Lieutenant: A Story of Bravery, Devotion and Self Sacrifice, 1915–16 by Lieutenant J A Raws (Private printer, 1931).
- Hail and Farewell: Letters From Two Brothers Killed in France in 1916 by Margaret Young and Bill Gammage, eds (Kangaroo Press, 1995). Click here to read an extract.