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Text brings home war’s cost

A day after arriving in France, Australian Army Musician Lenore Evans was walking through the rows of Commonwealth War Graves at the Villers-Bretonneux War Cemetery when she received a text message from her Aunt. It said: "You have a relative buried there."

The soldier, who grew up in the Queensland city of Redcliffe, is in France with the Australian Army Band to participate in Anzac Day commemorative events including the Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux.

She knew long before travelling to France that she had significant family history on the Western Front, with her Great-Great-Great Uncle Frank Rossiter Crozier having served there, both as an infantry soldier and then later as an Official War Artist.

Frank Crozier survived the war and returned to Australia.

Musician Evans' other relative wasn't so fortunate.

"My Aunt sent me a text with the name of a relative (fourth cousin, four times removed) who was buried somewhere among those 2000 lines of white headstones that surrounded me," she said.

"So, I went looking for Plot 9, Row B and found the grave of Private Duncan Lyle McKay, who served in the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force.

"He was sadly killed on the June 6, 1918, when a shell landed in his dugout.

"I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to visit him and pay my respects. It is very special knowing that I'll be here on Anzac Day, taking part in a Dawn Service in the very place that he is buried.

"I hope he's listening and knows that I'm playing for him."

Musician Evans said her personal connection to the battlefields of France has given her new perspective on World War I.

 "It's hard to imagine what it was like and what they must have seen, because the landscape in this region is beautiful with rolling green fields and birds chirping. I can't imagine what it would have been like to see that shattered," Musician Evans said.

"I looked at Frank Rossiter's artwork in the Australian War Memorial's collection before I came here, and it was helpful to see the war through his eyes.

"It's hard to comprehend what it would have been like to illustrate all that death and destruction, but I'm proud of what my Great Uncle Frank did because it was important for people in Australia to know what the soldiers were going through."

"It's also lovely to think that war artists like him have helped ensure the service sacrifice of thousands of men, men like Private Duncan McKay, will never be forgotten."

As the last post sounds on 25 April, Musician Evans will be thinking of the soldiers, sailors and airmen from all wars who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and of her two relatives who she never met, but whose service she will never forget.