For those of you not living in Australia, the 25th of April is ANZAC Day. The acronym, ANZAC, was derived from persons serving in ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corps’ (1914-1818). The two countries were brothers in arms when entering WWI, one hundred years ago tomorrow, at the landing in Gallipoli, Turkey.
Last year, my husband and I included a trip to Gallipoli in our tour of the Black Sea countries and Turkey. It stands out as one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been. To see the terrain the troops occupied, where over 36,000 Commonwealth troops died was an emotional experience I had not expected. After all, I had no family in that battle, nor was I born in Australia, or even the Commonwealth. We visited the graves and read the sad inscriptions. We walked among some of those 100 year old trenches as our tour guide, who was Turkish, compassionately told us stories from both sides of the battle.
I wished my Dad was still alive to tell him about it, if he could have even brought himself to listen. He seldom talked about his WWII experience as it upset him. He was not quite 17 when he began his five years in the US Army; his mother lied about his age so that he could escape a miserable home life. And what he got was more misery. Hearing the stories of the ANZACS, as we have this week in the media, I was reminded. Young men signed up for what they thought was their duty, if not an adventure. Many paid the ultimate price.
The abject slaughter and loss of innocence of these gorgeous young men, not to mention the loss for their loved ones, is what I remember on ANZAC Day. The stories of their courage and that of the families they left behind is beyond anything I know. And wasn’t that the point? That following generations would not know such sorrow and sacrifice? And yet some still do. Whether ill conceived or not, the actions of these men were meant to preserve the quality of Australian life. That they retreated in the end, and lost the battle, makes their sacrifice even more poignant, and no less important. Perhaps it should be an even greater cautionary tale against war.
Tomorrow morning is sure to be record numbers, for observance of the 100th anniversary. Rather than attend dawn services in a mass of people, I chose to climb ANZAC Hill by myself at dawn this morning. With every step I climbed up the rugged stone steps, I thought of the rocky escarpment that greeted the troops at dawn on the shores of Gallipoli. As I looked out, every beautiful view reinforced the fact of my fortunate life.
The local effort toward this anniversary was to cover the words ‘Lest We Forget’ with poppies, the emblematic flower worn on Remembrance Day each year. The words have been erected at ANZAC Hill, greeting visitors and overlooking the town.
Even if we never have another war, never lose another soldier, we should not forget the lives of those lost. We stand on their shoulders, like it or not. Taking photos this morning, and writing this blog is how I choose to honour my Dad and all the many soldiers and families who have given so much.