The ANZAC Story
The ANZAC story began at dawn on April 25th 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was the start of a campaign that lasted eight months and resulted in some 25,000 Australian casualties, including some 8,700 who were killed or died of wounds or disease.
In 1916, the first ANZAC anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England and by troops in Egypt. In 1927 April 25th became a public holiday for the first time and in ensuing decades, returned servicemen and women from World War Two and the conflicts in Korea, Malaya, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Gulf, East Timor and Afghanistan have joined the parades alongside peacekeepers from United Nations’ operations.
To my mind, ANZAC Day is about peace just as much as it is about war. It’s about the actions of young men on the battlefields of Turkey, France, PNG and the Middle East; crews on the Australian warships and Merchant Navy and the airmen in the sky. They didn’t seek to wage wars of aggression. It’s about their attempts to restore peace and all too often their sacrifice for this cause.
It’s also about stories of service, caring, and compassion; of the men and women behind the battlefields. People of peace – doctors, nurses and other personnel - who worked hard to carry out their duties, often in appalling conditions. One excellent example of this aspect is the story of Matron Grace Wilson and her staff at Lemnos, tending to the wounded from Gallipoli.
It’s also about people whose formal role explicitly signals a desire for peace. Since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, Australia has sent 30,000 young men and women overseas on peacekeeping missions. They’ve been sent to places like Indonesia, Kashmir, Somalia, Rwanda and East Timor to help restore peace and to rebuild shattered communities. Tragically, 14 Australians have died during these operations. With the soldiers on these missions are often Policemen, nurses and logistics crews.
Finally, the ANZAC story is about mateship, the uniquely Australian term for the act of looking after you close friends. CEW Bean, the Official War Historian from Gallipoli, made a great deal of this spirit when he wrote about the actions of the Australian soldiers before they attacked places like Lone Pine and The Nek at Gallipoli in 1915.
Pride in the ANZACs
To explain the ANZAC occasion, I cannot do better than to quote the speech made by the then Prime Minister at the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1993 when he formally unveiled the tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity. It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since.
We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and, with it, a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.
Commemorating on ANZAC Day
On April 25th, ANZAC Day, every year thousands of Australians pause and reflect on the service of Australian men and women in our Armed Forces and in particular, the 102,000 men and women who have died in war.
They attend dawn services across the country, or line the streets to watch servicemen and women march by. This is part remembrance of the dead and wounded, but also partly a celebration of their service.
Something that is usually read to the audience is Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’ which was written in 1914:
For The Fallen
By Laurence Binyon.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
ANZAC Day and The Eagles
As a footy club, the Hornsby Berowra Eagles attend every dawn service at Hornsby RSL and lay a wreath to formally acknowledge the service and sacrifice of men and women from the Hornsby District.
Why not come along and join us?