Lest We Forget

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.
Lest We Forget

April 25th is ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, so name for the men of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey in World War I.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, under a plan by Winston Churchill to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Army. What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Every year, all around the world Aussies (Australians) and Kiwis (New Zealanders) will pause for a day and remember the sacrifice made by those who have gone to war. Many people make something of a pilgrimage to the site of the original battle in Turkey. As suggested on Sam in Oz’s blog, it would be like the descendants of the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor holding an emotional service beneath the Japanese flag in Hawaii each year.

For me, ANZAC day is profoundly sad. The dawn service is haunting, but meaningful. It is a day that people of all generations come together. You’ll see old diggers (soldiers) sharing a beer with younger people and later in the day, a rowdy game of two-up will begin. ANZAC day then becomes a celebration of mateship, something the Aussie culture values over most everything else.

Having lived in California for the last few years, I witness many of the cultural differences between America and Australia. One of the most obvious is how each country remembers war. American will remember the grand victories and the war heroes. Australians will commemorate a massive military defeat where mateship and courage are more important than the winning. One of Australia’s most remembered war heroes was Simpson, the man with a donkey. At Gallipoli he used a donkey to carry wounded soldiers to the dressing station and gained a reputation for being undaunted by enemy fire. On 19 May 1915 he was killed, and though he was mentioned in orders of the day and despatches, he received no bravery award. The myth-making began almost immediately after his death, and he soon became one of the best-known images of the ANZAC experience.

Here in San Diego we will be holding a service for ANZAC day and we will be heading to the pub for two-up afterwards. I will be giving my thanks to those men and women who died in the service of their country, and I will be hoping that we never have to witness the horrors of war again. Unfortunately, that is not how human nature is.

Photo by: State Library of Queensland

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4 comments

  1. I will be giving my thanks to those men and women who died in the service of their country, and I will be hoping that we never have to witness the horrors of war again. Unfortunately, that is not how human nature is.

    My sentiments too…

  2. It’s not always 4th of July celebrating and barbecues on memorial days here in the US.

    At Arlington National Cemetery there is a permanent guard at the tomb of the Unknown that is the most revered by servicemembers.

    Here’s to the Aussies & Kiwis…

    Tommy

    1. Arlington cemetery is indeed a hauntingly beautiful commemoration to the fallen. On ANZAC day 2008 I visited the grave of the one Australian buried there.

  3. I have to admit that I don’t quite agree with the comparison between the events at Gallipoli and the events with the Japanese in WW2 but I do understand what you are saying.

    Everytime I hear the Last Post I get goosebumps. As a child I used to think that it was because the Fallen Soldiers were standing there, at attention, saluting their mates as the last notes played. Even now as an adult, I sometimes wonder if that is the case. I would like to think so.

    We will never forget but it seems we will never learn either.

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