Old Soldier Going Home
Streets of Adelaide is a song I wrote for my father and all the ANZACS.
My father, Lieutenant-Colonel Mervyn Roderick Jeanes was one of the most highly decorated soldiers from South Australia in the Second World War. He was a Rat of Tobruk, and later in the war, as commander of the 2nd 43rd Battalion, fought the Japanese in Borneo and was part of the Allied leadership to whom the Japanese surrendered in 1945. You can see him in the main photo with General Douglas MacArthur commander of the allied forces in the pacific.
Leading his Battalion on the streets of Adelaide on ANZAC Day
Returning from the war he established a good life in the city of Adelaide. But he was forever traumatized by what he had experienced as a member of the brave Anzacs in these theatres of war. In the years that followed before he died in the mid 1970s he led his battalion in the streets of Adelaide on Anzac Day, year by year the ranks becoming thinner, where I would go and watch him march never really understanding as a young boy what it all meant.
He was a quiet man who worked hard for his family and who never spoke of the war, keeping the dark and disturbing feelings to himself – and yet he was clearly profoundly affected, dying as he did a sad and somewhat broken man.
A Song to Understand
- In the 1990s I wrote the core of the song Streets of Adelaide in an attempt in myself to understand what had happened to him.
- In 2013 my son-in-law Ben in Adelaide who has a profound connection to the Anzac legend himself through his own family, heard the song and encouraged me to record it for the 100th anniversary of the Anzacs in 2015.
- Last year I approached well-known musician and producer Murray Burns at Studios 301 in Byron Bay to help me realize this project. Streets of Adelaide (Old Soldier Going Home) is the product of this collaboration.
A Tribute to all the ANZACS
In this year of tribute to the Anzacs I wish to speak to and represent my father and the true story of his struggles in the war and beyond.
"He, who like so many other old and young soldiers, fought, were wounded or died for the deepest principles of freedom and democracy that, at its best, this country Australia represents. This is a song about the trauma of war – a tribute to all those fallen, and to all those profoundly affected by the most traumatic activity that human beings can engage in."
Setting aside questions of justification – as I stand myself a thoughtful pacifist – I offer this song and this story as my personal honouring to my father and all those of all races, including in particular our indigenous soldiers here and in New Zealand, who go to battle in too many wars believing they are there to make a difference, to preserve a safe and peaceful life for all those loved ones at home.
Lest we forget.