25 April 2011

Lest we forget. ANZAC Day, Monday 25 April.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.
-- from Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

Why is this day special to Australians?

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.

(Borrowed from Australian War Memorial)

This video is one of my favorite songs. It tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign from a survivor's point of view... heartbreaking and poignant. Aussie John Williamson does this version.


These photos are from my own trip to Australia last summer. The Great War may be far from living memory, but it left its mark.

WWI nurse and wounded soldier monument in Brisbane

Walking stick palms in Queensland's Tamborine Rainforest. So called because of their size and the handy root bulb. Amputees would uproot these palms, strip off the leaves and use them as walking sticks after returning home from the war.

So this 25th April, I'm raising a beer to the fallen sons of our greatest allies, so 'when the young people ask "what are they marching for?",' these men will not be forgotten heroes of a forgotten war.We remember not only those who fought at Gallipoli, but all ANZACs.

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