Today marked ANZAC day in Australia. Ninety two years ago Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey. Winston Churchill believed that a quick strike against Turkey would take Turkey out of the war and Germany would lose an ally. April 25, 1915 was the beginning of one the most tragic campaigns of World War I. The fast victory did not come and the troops were bogged down at the beaches for the best part of eight months. In total over 10,000 ANZAC soldiers died during the battles against the Turkey defenders.
History views this largely to be Churchill’s fault and he was greatly shamed by the lives spent at Gallipoli. After the war he was demoted and would not gain prominence until World War II.
World War I was the first war that that used modern machines to kill in mass. Machine guns, tanks, and air planes saw their first widespread use at this time. Many soldiers and their armies were not prepared for the scope of changes and endless lives were lost on the battlefields of Europe and remote places like Turkey.
Australia before the war was fairly naive about this new warfare. Australians come from a land of peace that has never seen direct mass conflict except for the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942. The cycle of hiding in trenches and running for a full attack against well armed rapid fire gunners was a recipe for death. The movie Gallipoli illustrates the nature of trench warfare.
From most outside accounts, Gallipoli was a disaster. But, in all truth, it was the turning point for Australia. It became a symbol of qualities that run deep within the Australian psyche. In extreme adversity, ANZAC soldiers persisted against all odds and found the values that are the foundation of modern Australian culture.
Mateship – bonding with your mates and doing all you can to keep things going way beyond the call of duty for your friends so that you never let them down.
Endurance – stay with the task until the task is done, even when others tell you it is impossible
Light-hearted – keep a sense of humour even during the toughest times
It runs so deep that it is difficult to examine in part. The strength of the Australian spirit is unique. The people are so genuine and real. It is a place where you can speak your mind and even the most powerful leaders are not immune from being cut down a notch based on forgetting Australian cultural roots. Many times I have been impressed with the bonding and resiliency of the Australian population. Given a tragedy, they come together and work together to get through it. It’s amazing to see.
“Lest We Forget” is often spoken at ANZAC day ceremonies and conveys the common wish that the horrors of war not be forgotten and that the soldiers that died will always be remembered for doing all they did for their people. It is common for every town and city to have memorials and services for ANZAC day. Even the smallest towns were affected by the war. Since 1915, many other wars have been fought. ANZAC day is about the soldiers in those wars as well. It was said today that 100,000 Australians have died in wars. The overall sentiment is that war should be avoided. If it cannot be avoided, it should be fully committed to.
We went to the ceremony today. It touched me. There are so many elements to it. There are the innocent boys being sent to war in Gallipoli. There are the mothers, the fathers, brothers and sisters that never saw their son/brother again. There is a nation doing its duty to its Empire trying to impress the world. A young nation sending its first soldiers to its first war in distant Turkey. The victory never came. Misery and strife for eight long months in the trenches around the beaches of Gallipoli. And yet, Australia learned from this. Australians learned… and they remembered… and they understand that this should never be forgotten and the soldiers should never be forgotten.
Lest We Forget
The Pogues wrote a song about the events of Gallipoli – “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” – which is very poignant. Read the lyrics here: http://www.pogues.com/Releases/Lyrics/LPs/RumSodomy/Waltzing.html