Stories of war veterans' wives inspire Queensland musicians in The Soldier's Wife

The Soldier's Wife project saw Queensland musicians write original songs inspired by the stories of veterans' partners. Photo: Dane Beesley
The Soldier's Wife project saw Queensland musicians write original songs inspired by the stories of veterans' partners. Photo: Dane Beesley

A collaboration between young Queensland musicians and the wives and widows of wartime soldiers aims to collect more stories in 2015.

The Soldier's Wife began as a passion project last year when a group of female singer-songwriters spent time with women separated from their partners during conflicts ranging from World War II present day.

The artists, including Jackie Marshall, Bertie Page, Lydia Fairhall and Kristy Apps, then wrote and recorded original songs inspired by their experiences.

For Roz Pappalardo, it was an especially personal experience, because she based Let the Chains Up on a series of conversations she had with her grandmother not long before she passed away.

Carmella Pagano spent seven years working as the station master in the Sicilian mountain village of Piedmonte Etneo while her husband was a prisoner of war.

"I would imagine her for seven years letting the chains up - which is what she did to let the trains into the station - wating to see whether Nonno would be one of the soldiers stepping off the train," she said.

"He eventually did come home... but my song focuses on the time my Nonna lived and worked at the train station, wondering, waiting, existing, raising a child and hoping for good news."

Pappalardo said she recorded the track in a rare single take.

"Nonna had only just passed, and I knew she was in the room," she said.

"While I find it hard to listen to the song, I think I've done her story a little bit of justice."

Emerging talent Sahara Beck, who had relatives in the German and American armies in WW2, based her song Bombs Away on a woman whose husband returned from the conflict with deep mental scars.

"He had night terrors every single night, but he wouldn't tell her what they were about, he didn't want to talk about it," she said.

"It was like he left it back at the war and you didn't take it home with you because you wouldn't ever want to relive it again."

Beck said the woman was left frustrated by a feeling of being unable to help.

"Lots of other women also said their husbands didn't want to talk about it.

"The lyrics are about trying to sleep, being brave, getting through it and opening up to the one who loves you."

Both Beck and Pappalardo said they were moved by being welcomed into a "secret women's club".

"Having a group of veterans' wives share their stories, crying, laughing, holding one another's hands, listening, offering advice is one of the most powerful experiences I've ever been involved in," Pappalardo said.

"I felt completely engaged and like a fly on the wall at the same time."

Project manager and Brisbane music institution Deb Suckling said the songs would be introduced to new audiences this year thanks to the support of the Anzac Centenary Fund public awareness program.

"Receiving that support is going to allow us to spend some time in regional areas in 2015 and gather more stories from women from those regions," she said.

"It is also going to allow us to record and release a full-length album of these songs this year. All proceeds from the recordings are donated to both Legacy and the Partners of Veterans Association of Australia, both of whom provide support for the wives and families of servicemen."

The Soldier's Wife will be performed live at the Kedron-Wavell Services Club at Chermside on April 20. The songs can be heard via Soundcloud.

This story Stories of war veterans' wives inspire Queensland musicians in The Soldier's Wife first appeared on Brisbane Times.