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Swan recalls suffering of grandfather, father

"He had the mud of Flanders on his boots and the horror of it on his mind" ... Treasurer Wayne Swan on his war veteran grandfather.

"He had the mud of Flanders on his boots and the horror of it on his mind" ... Treasurer Wayne Swan on his war veteran grandfather. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

WAYNE SWAN will speak today of how fighting in World War I ''broke'' his grandfather, who died of war-related ill health at age 56.

Mr Swan, who is Acting Prime Minister while Julia Gillard is attending Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli, will also speak about his father's experience in the air force in World War II, in a speech in Brisbane today.

Mr Swan's father, Maurice, was shelled, bombed and attacked by infantry while building airfields during the Borneo campaign in 1945.

''Like his father, he saw friends killed. This is something he never forgot,'' Mr Swan will tell his audience.

Mr Swan's grandfather, David, was rejected when he tried to enlist in 1914, but was called up after the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula. He served in the trenches in the Somme and Flanders, and suffered serious shrapnel wounds during the taking of Messines Ridge, the subject of the film Beneath Hill 60.

''He had the mud of Flanders on his boots, and the horror of it on his mind,'' Mr Swan will say. ''The effects of that fighting broke my grandfather.''

Having suffered from influenza and been gassed and wounded several time during his service, he died in 1935, a year shy of Mr Swan's current age of 57.

Mr Swan will say that while Australian troops in Afghanistan are principally fighting terrorism, they are also fighting for the principle of equality that had motivated his grandfather and father.

''What my grandfather, my father and those who lie in numerous graves across the world believed was this: that a nation founded on the universal principle of equality is a nation worth fighting for,'' Mr Swan will say. ''That's what Anzac Day means to me.''

''That value of equality was proclaimed at Australia's birth. It was proved at Gallipoli. It guided us during the conflicts that followed. It continues to guide us today.''

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