ONE hundred years after his father landed at Anzac Cove under a hail of bullets, Hugh Belling will arrive under very different circumstances. The 91-year-old Gunnedah man was “elated” to learn last week he had secured two tickets in a national ballot to attend next year’s centenary dawn service at Gallipoli. It will be the World War II veteran’s first visit to the site of Australia’s most celebrated and mythologised – albeit ill-fated – military operation.
Making it even more special is that Mr Belling’s father, Arthur Bertram Belling, was in the second wave of troops to hit the beach.
Arthur Belling was a 22-year-old farmer at Old Junee when he signed up at the Wagga Show on August 28, 1914, to serve his country.
“He had no idea at all (about what was to come),” Mr Belling said. “I don’t think any of them who joined up did, until later, of course.”
While an injury suffered just after the battle of Lone Pine eventually saw Arthur Belling return to Australia, he was one of the lucky ones.
“One day he was slightly wounded in the head and while he was being dressed, that platoon went down what they call a sap and weren’t heard from again,” Mr Belling said.
“He was discharged as physically unfit, but he never got a pension.
“He became a very strong RSL member and that’s the sort of thing they were fighting for.”
Stories from the conflict were told occasionally in the Belling household, with Mr Belling vividly recalling one in particular that conveyed the horror of war.
“One of the things I remember him talking about was there was a fellow bayoneted and it had broken off,” he said.
“Dad went to pull it out and the fellow said: ‘Leave it there, Arthur, I’m finished’.”
Mr Belling, who was drafted into the army and served as an artilleryman in World War II, admitted he faced a challenge to be fit to travel next year.
He turns 92 this month and needs to undergo knee and back surgery later this year – surgeries delayed by the recent fitting of a pacemaker.
But with a large family, courtesy of having six boys and one girl with his wife, who passed away several years ago, there’s no shortage of volunteers to accompany him.
“I haven’t decided yet who’s going to go with me yet, but it will be one of my younger relations,” he said.