|Bede (left) with friend, possibly taken in Toronto|
The year is 1939. Australia is on the brink of war. Bede Smith, an talented young dentist from country New South Wales, has his own dreams. He hopes to travel to Canada to take a postgraduate degree. En route, several days into the Pacific crossing, war is declared, throwing his plans into disarray. Not knowing how long the conflict will last, he continues on to Toronto. There, he falls in love with Marg Baggs, a Canadian. He graduates with a Doctorate of Dentistry and marries Marg in Toronto. They return from their honeymoon to the news that Japan has bombed Pearl Harbour. Feeling duty bound, Bede enlists with the Canadian Army and starts military training. Marg is six-months pregnant when Bede is sent to the wilds of northern Ontario to serve the harsh winter at an army prisoner-of-war camp. Their first child, Pat, is just six months old when Bede is posted to England to prepare for combat. While there, he is involved in a motor vehicle accident – hit by a truck. He recovers in time for the invasion of Europe. In August 1944, Bede lands with the Canadian Fourth Armoured Division on Juno Beach in Normandy. The Canadians advance north through the muddy, wet autumn into the brutal winter of 1944-45. Bede serves with a field ambulance team, treating the wounded. He encounters famine and devastation in Belgium and the Netherlands. He just wants to survive to make it home to his wife and daughter. After five and a half years of war, the Allies finally achieve victory in Europe in May, 1945. However, Australia is still at war with Japan, so Bede volunteers for the Pacific. Demobilised, he returns to Canada and is reunited with Marg and Pat. He is training for jungle combat when the Hiroshima bomb is dropped and Japan surrenders.
After the war, Bede brings his young family home to Australia and starts a dental practice in Sydney. He has two more daughters and settles into family life. Marg takes the girls on a long holiday to Canada, but he has to stay back to attend to his patients. Over time, work becomes all-consuming, with the daily commute into the city, leaving no time for holidays. His life is out of balance. With his part-time position teaching young dentistry students Bede realises he can devote his energies to teaching. A position comes up at the Perth Dental Hospital, on the other side of the country, prompting a decision to sell up and leave Sydney.
Bede moves the family to Perth. At the age of 52, he has a new lease on life. Now working regular hours, he has free time to study an arts degree and develop his creative side. He takes the family on a long road trip across the country to see his beloved Australian cricket team play the Ashes Test match in Sydney in 1963. On the way there, he stops in Leeton, where his parents were pioneer settlers. Once back in Perth, all seems rosy. But time is running out for Bede.