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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Not a Waste: the Short Life of Arthur Gullidge

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   When we hear about massive loss of life, we are often affected.  However, it can quickly become just a statistic for us.  A character in a 1932 essay by pacific Kurt Tucholsky says, "The war? I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!"  Tucholsky himself was a pacifist, but he put these words in the mouth of a French diplomat to show the irony of human response to mass deaths. (This quotation is often attributed to Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, but he was probably just repeating or rephrasing the above.) [1] 
   The South Pacific portion of World War II is less known to me as a Canadian with European ties, but I recently learned how a Japanese ship called the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine in July, 1942 killing 1,053 prisoners of war being transported.  This is surely a sad statistic; those being held in the cargo hold of this ship were allies of the Americans, yet they perished at their hands.  However, every one of those who died in that ship had a story.  I'd like to share just one of them with you.
   Arthur Gullidge was an Australian man with a gift for music.  At a young age he joined the Salvation Army in the city of Brunswick and became part of the music ministry that this Christian denomination is known for: its brass band.  Not only did he play music, but he also conducted and composed band music.  His first work was published when he was just seventeen years of age.  He won awards and published music under his own name and a pen name of Greendale.  When the war broke out Gullidge struggled with the feeling that he ought to contribute in some way that befit his Christian faith.  He became the leader of the 2/22nd military band, which formed when 26 Salvation Army band members enlisted together with intents to serve as stretcher bearers when the need would arise.
   Gullidge and the others were deployed to a military post called Rabaul on the tip of one of New Guinea's islands.  After Pearl Harbour was attacked in 1941 and the Japanese advanced forcefully, it was only a matter of time before Rabaul would be taken.  The soldiers who had been sent there were told to stay.  After they were captured, these soldiers and civilians were taken by the Japanese ship in order to become slave labourers in Korea, Japan or one of its territories.  The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was not reported to the people of Australia until after the war had ended.  The outpouring of grief was immense, especially for the Salvation Army presence there.
   One of Gullidge's best known band pieces called "Divine Communion" was played at a concert I recently attended in Guelph, Ontario.  The conductor Al Hicks had not planned to come up and introduce the piece, but in doing so he told the audience the story of its composer.  Without his lead-in, I would never have written this post. When the words to the band music were projected on the screens, these ones were all the more poignant:
All there is of me, Lord
All there is of me, Lord 
Time and talents, day by day,
All I bring to Thee;
All there is of me, Lord
All there is of me, Lord
On thine altar here I lay
All there is of me.
   It is clear from these lyrics that Gullidge's life was built upon submission to God's will.  This testimony speaks to us today and show that even though he died young it was not in vain.

  [1] Eoin O'Carroll explains this in the Christian Science Monitor article entitled "Political Misquotes: the 10 most famous things never actually said" dated June 3, 2011.

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