Recently I arranged a Fallen Warrior Quilt for the family of TPR David Pearce. Trooper David Pearce was killed during a roadside bomb attack on the light armoured vehicle he was driving, six kilometres from the Australian base at Tarin Kowt in the southern province of Oruzgan, Afghanistan, on Monday, 8 October 2007. TPR Pearce was a member of the Reconstruction Task Force RTF-3.
The chaplain who passed me the family’s details told me that Poppy’s Cafe at the Australian War Memorial was named after TPR Pearce. I had been to Poppy’s on many occasions and was shocked that I did not know the story. Quite a number of people I have spoken to since also did not know about the connection between TPR Pearce and the Cafe named in is honour. I decided that I wanted to tell the story on this blog so that more people will know the story and will remember Poppy when next they visit the War Memorial.
I am sharing the story tonight with the blessing of Poppy’s widow, Nicole.
Trooper Pearce, who had joined the army in his 30s, was affectionately known as “Poppy” by his much younger comrades because of his age.
Lieutenant Colonel David Wainwright (Commanding Officer Reconstruction Task Force (RTF-3) said in a statement at the time…
“The soldiers of Reconstruction Task Force Three are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Trooper David Pearce. Our heartfelt condolences go out to David’s family and close friends affected by this tragic incident. He was one of our mates, part of our Regimental family and a true Australian soldier. We feel his loss deeply; this said, the immediate focus and priority of every soldier of the Task Force is to the care and comfort of David’s family……….
David was an extremely popular trooper; to his mates he was known as Poppy. David’s dedication and commitment to our mission in southern Afghanistan was typical of his willingness to help others. Words will never go close to express his efforts, his legacy will endure and he will never be forgotten. He has been honoured by a special service here in the Australian Camp in Tarin Kot. We will not forget his sacrifice.”
In 2007, shortly after he was killed when the ASLAV in which he was travelling ran over a roadside bomb, his mates redeveloped the cafe area at their base in Tarin Kowt and named it “Poppy’s” in his honour.
In July 2014 the then Prime Minister Abbott opened “Poppy’s”, formerly the Terrace Cafe, at the AWM, which was renamed in honour of Trooper David “Poppy Pearce”.
Mr Abbott brought the kangaroo and boomerang which had decorated that cafe in TK back to Australia with him after his first visit to Afghanistan as Prime Minister in 2013.
His first stop after getting off the plane at Canberra Airport was the Australian War Memorial where he handed the items to Dr Brendan Nelson, the director.
He said “The interesting thing about Australian soldiers, about Australian warriors, is that they never lose their humanity.”
“(But) we need to acknowledge soldiers in the field have to, of necessity, suspend their humanity. They suspend their humanity in order to preserve our humanity.
“Even in the midst of a war zone it is important to gather from time to time with your mates and to be human.”
Mr Abbott said this was one of the things that characterised Trooper Pearce whose widow, Nicole, and the couple’s two daughters, had travelled from Queensland for the event.
“He loved to be with his mates, he was great company, he loved them and they loved him and that’s why they chose to name the place where they gathered to talk, to relax, to think of home, Poppy’s Cafe.”
Once I heard the story I decided that I had to find a way to incorporate that history and meaning into the Fallen Warrior Quilt for Nicole and her children. I decided to add a copy of the Roo and Boomerang on the front of the quilt. This quilt was made from blocks sent in by quilters from all over Australia and those blocks were then turned into a quilt top. After I added the roo and boomerang it was sent to Debbie in Queensland who quilted it, appropriately, in poppies.
Nicole received the quilt last Wednesday. This is part of her response.
The quilt arrived and it’s absolutely beautiful and I really love the special little touch with the kangaroo and its significance! Almost like a part of Poppy’s came home to us from Afghanistan too. Thank you very much. Please thank your friend Debbie also with all of my heart! We will treasure it for a very long time.”
So, next time you visit the Australian War Memorial and have lunch or a cuppa in Poppy’s you will know how it got its name and perhaps you can spend a minute honouring Poppy Pearce and his family.
Gone but not forgotten.
Till next time……. keep spreading the word.