It’s the horrible truth – it’s the young who go to war and many of them don’t come back. On April 25 each year, we commemorate Anzac Day, Australia’s most important national occasion where we mark the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Aussie and New Zealand forces…World War I, and every war thereafter.
A brief history lesson: Anzac is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, but many of us lower case it because that’s just the way it is.
Thousands upon thousands of Australians descend on Gallipoli every year to attend the dawn service there and for those who are unaware of the history, this is a snippet taken from the Australian War Memorial:
When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.
The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.
Despite being born in Australia, my family is from Europe so I don’t have a direct connection to an Anzac. I do however, have incredibly strong connections to other wars, particularly World War II, from the European side and simply can’t fathom what it’s like to be involved in such tragedy and hatred and fear.
Australians and New Zealanders today reflect on what we call “the Anzac spirit”, what the soldiers created and what they represented – and what we try to uphold. Originally epitomised by the deeds of John Simpson and his donkey, it’s about comradeship, courage, sacrifice and putting others before oneself. It’s also about the laughter, the pride and the love of life each one of those men and women had.
In the last few years, acceptance and pride among the Australian public has diminished, I feel, with racial discrimination, closed mindedness, non-acceptance and violence. If we want to uphold the spirit of the Anzacs, we need to remember that we will do everything and anything for our mates, for our families, our neighbours, our country. Servicemen and women show the true embodiment of Australian mateship and for as long as we live, we should honour that. Why is it that only in times of need we show that spirit, like in the Queensland floods and the tragic bushfires?
Today is a day to not forget our fallen men and women, and those veterans who returned with emotional and mental scarring. To remember those who are currently serving our countries overseas, away from their families and everyday life, facing conflict and hardship.
With thousands of dawn services taking place across the country, the trumpet of the last post with a minute’s silence, prayers for the safe return of our soldiers, flags flying at half mast, hands on our hearts as we sing the national anthem, and a tear shed in thanks…
LEST WE FORGET.