Richardson sword

It was with mixed feelings that I took possession of this family heirloom earlier this year.

This ceremonial sword was presented to my great-grandfather, John Richardson. He had the distinction of being a Gallipoli veteran, having landed in the first couple of days of that campaign and, after being wounded, evacuated shortly afterwards. After lengthy rehabilitation, he returned to the AIF on the Western Front, where he was again wounded shortly after his arrival there.

My uncle John used the sword in in a parade at Portsea, Victoria in 1980 when he was serving on the staff at Officer Cadet School and also as a Brigade Commander during a parade in Sydney in 1997.

I first saw this sword as a child and was told it would come to me if I were to join the armed forces, which wasn't to be my path in life. My cousin Chris enlisted and the second time I saw it was in his possession in Sydney. He would leave the Army and worked as a security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, before his sudden death while working in the latter.

The phrase about 'those who live by the sword, die by the sword' has been on my mind since I saw this sword a third time, when I received it. While it's not literally the case, I can see that there are decisions which shape our lives and mine was to become a pacifist when I learned how another of my uncles avoided conscription to Vietnam as a conscientious objector. Otherwise it's possible I would've ended up in the Army too.

I don't know much about my great-grandfather. I never asked my grandfather about him but my father has remembered him as a distant, grumpy figure from his childhood. I now wonder how he felt fighting in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign and leading young men to their deaths again in France. Warfare has changed a lot in the last century and so has the value placed on human life.