WWII digger’s battered bugle still sounds on Anzac Day

Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)

 

When the sun rises over the horizon at dawn on Anzac Day, Adam Turner will press the cold rim of his grandfather’s World War II bugle to his lips for a stirring rendition of The Last Post.

The musical relic still gleams, despite its age.

And its tone remains true, unaffected by the dings and dents that hint at the experiences of the man whose name is engraved on the side.

As far as Mr Turner knows, his grandfather, John Bruce McEachran, began carrying the French-made bugle in 1940, when he lied about his age to fight for his country.

Bruce, as he was known, wasn’t one to share what he endured in the Middle East, Ceylon, and on the infamous Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea from 1941 to 1945.

“He didn’t talk about the war a great deal and certainly not to me,” says Mr Turner, who lost his grandfather when he was still a boy.

“I’ve got third-hand accounts he told my mother when she was younger, but that’s about it.”

Of the perils of Kokoda, “unpleasant” was the soldier and bugler’s understated assessment. But one thing Bruce did share on his return from war was his skills as a bugler.

Every year, Bruce took pride in digging out his battered instrument and playing The Last Post at Anzac Day services in the northern NSW town of Tumbulgum.

He made it a family affair by coercing his grandsons, Mr Turner included, to play a flute-and-clarinet rendition of the national anthem to what was always a modest gathering of about 100 people.

When Bruce died in 1988, his beloved Couesnon bugle was taken up on Anzac Day by his daughter Lyn, who in turn taught her son how to play.

And for the past 20 years or so, Mr Turner has continued the tradition, playing The Last Post to the large crowd that gathers once a year at dawn at Elephant Rock on Currumbin Beach.

Mr Turner recalls the bugle lessons his mother gave him. He doesn’t remember his grandfather personally passing on the finer points of how to play, but he served as tutor nonetheless.

“For years I had a cassette of him playing, that I basically mimicked,” he told AAP, during a practice run on the beach on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty bashed up but it still sounds amazing, and that’s got more to do with the bugle than the player.”

The legacy of Bruce’s bugle won’t stop with Mr Turner, who plans to teach his own daughters how to play when they’re old enough, and he sees something poetic in that.

“It will be a little bit of things coming full circle. My wife is Japanese, and my kids are half Japanese. I think it’s a little bit of a coming together from those two nations’ point of view.”

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