May 2

They loved our noble flag.

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“As the sun met the horizon a corporal strode across the road and headed to the pole near them to lower the flag for the night. The banner stirred and lifted in the breeze, and at John Drayton’s side Ron Howard spoke, ‘Whenever I see the flag now, I can’t help thinking of Harry.’

John Drayton pictured Harry Parsons lying beside him on the edge of the muddy stream in Java; the bullet hole in his forehead. He took a long, uneasy breath. ‘Why’s that?’

‘Well, the kid used to brag about his uncle being one of the five joint winners who designed the flag in 1901.’

John Drayton had not known this.

‘I think he said there were over thirty thousand entrants. He was mighty proud of that. Harry loved the flag, he did.’

‘Don’t we all?’

‘Yes, we do.’

John Drayton shook his head, thinking of Harry and Marchant and Wiggers, Cassidy and Lewis and the thousands of others who had died to keep the flag flying.

And as if some universal conscience heard them speaking, the banner lifted and billowed high in the blazoned sky to reveal itself: the Union Jack and the Southern Cross and the Federation Star.

John Drayton eyed it silently in contemplation until finally he threw his arm around Ron’s shoulder. ‘Right, let’s go and visit Ward, and then find a beer and toast our Harry and all of the others …and our noble flag.’ ”

[This is an extract from “For Freedom,” the epic saga of suffering, compassion and love set against the valiant defence of Australia in the Second World War by the Second Australian Imperial Force in South East Asia and the Pacific. “For Freedom,” by the best selling author Joy Chambers, is published by Headline Publishing Group, London, and is available from all major booksellers]


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