As an Aussie/Kiwi ANZAC means much more than just the letters or the words they represent.
Australian New Zealand Army Corps.
To me those words represent a special breed.
On the 25th of April each year we commemorate one of the saddest days in Australia’s and New Zealand’s combined history.
The landing at the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.
The objective was to capture the Dardanelles and Constantinople, opening the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea for the allied navies.
An ill conceived idea of Winston Churchill’s, the landing at Gallipoli began to go wrong from the start, as the landing parties arrived at the wrong beach. Had they however, landed at the correct point it would have been a bigger massacre as the Ottoman Empire was ready and waiting with their gatling guns.
The Ottoman forces were led by Mustafa Kemal (also known as Atatürk). The bold plan became an eight month stalemate. Losses were enormous on both sides. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.
In 1916 the first ANZAC Day was held and it has since gone on to include in the commemorations all service personnel and to honour those who have died in all military operations.
So what is ANZAC Day really ?
Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the Gallipoli landing, at war memorials in cities and towns across both countries. The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.
Dawn ceremonies are also held at the sites of some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most recognised battles and greatest losses. Places such as Villers-Bretonneux in France and Gallipoli in Turkey.
One tradition of Anzac Day is the ‘gunfire breakfast’ (coffee with rum added) which occurs shortly after many dawn ceremonies. It recalls the breakfast that was eaten by many soldiers before facing battle. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centres.
I will see many wearing the red poppy on ANZAC Day…it is the flower of remembrance.
It has been linked with death on the battlefield since WWI.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders fields’ linked poppies and death perhaps forever.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I will leave you with a tribute of my own to those who bravely fight for us in war.
A Piece of War…an excerpt
That quiet I was telling you about, it got to one of the boys; kid was just seventeen, pimple-faced, shouldn’t have been here, he lost it. Happens every now and again. Jumped up out of the trench and started running towards the Krauts’ side.
“C’mon you bastards,” he was screaming, waving his arms around. “Shoot me, you bloody cowards,” I think he said. Threw his gun away, tore open his uniform. “C’mon then, shoot me,” he kept yelling, running about. As much as we wanted to drag the silly bugger back, it was too dangerous. Any moment they could start shooting. Well, he kept it up for more than an hour. Could barely make a sound by the end there. Nothing happened. Not one shot.
Would have been easy. Thought about doing it myself, the kid was really spooking some of the lads, but nothing. Eventually he just fell to his knees crying, right there in the middle of no-man’s land. I wish I could explain what it felt like, seeing him out there in the moonlight, his crying the only sound for miles. Does it make any sense when I say he became all of you? His sound was the sound of home. I’ve never felt so heavy.
Other posts on ANZAC Day by other bloggers