Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anzac Day 2010

Last year's photos are here. This year's contribution is some (I hope) thought provoking quotes.
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.

It was lost on the night of bombardment before the first landing, lost in the first hour on the beach, lost on each of the two hundred and ninety-eight days that followed, lost in the planning at Whitehall, lost in the choice of the deranged Ian Hamilton, lost in the luck of getting the genius Ataturk as our principal foe.
Bob Ellis

Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore, the commander of the Australian naval fleet told the thousands gathered at central Sydney's Cenotaph for Sunday's Anzac Day dawn service that Australia's national identity was established at Gallipoli.

Rear Admiral Gilmore said the nation enjoys the freedoms it does thanks to the 1.8 million Australians who've served in military campaigns over the past 95 years.

Rear Admiral Gilmore said 102,000 Australian servicemen and servicewomen had made the ultimate sacrifice, and he asked that their contribution be remembered on this day.

"Because of Gallipoli our national identity was firmly established," he said, referring to Australia's best known military campaign.

Yahoo7 News

And many of us believed it, the audacious, denialist spin that a battle ill lost from which no good came was worth being in because it 'tested our mettle' and 'showed what game young men can do'.

Paul Keating, launching Graham Freudenberg's Churchill and Australia said Australia didn't have to prove anything. It already had the highest standard of living in the world, along with female suffrage, pensions, exemplary health care, a literate working class, good writers, athletes, musicians, painters, cartoonists. What was there to prove? That we could perish bravely in war, that great game of drongos?

'I have never gone to Gallipoli,' Keating said, 'and I never will. Kokoda is more my speed. There we fought, and won, a long battle that made a difference to our nation's future. That saved us from something, as Gallipoli never did.'
Bob Ellis, ABC.

War historian and author Roland Perry told the service that despite the horrific losses of thousands of young diggers, Australia had had a huge impact on the world stage during World War I.

‘‘The Turks had ruled the Middle East for 400 years but the Anzacs did more than any other force to change the map of the Middle East roughly to where it is today,’’ he said.

‘‘In the four years... Australia had a remarkable impact on the world stage never to be repeated.

‘‘But we are here today to remember the men and women of Australia and New Zealand who sacrificed and served in all wars, not just the Great War.’’

AAP, The Age.

What the Australians won at Gallipoli was huge respect, including from their enemy. It really is time we started making clear to young Australians that the Anzacs didn't die protecting Australia from being invaded. Rather, we were invading a country on the other side of the world - to wit, Turkey - with whom we had no difference as a people outside the larger politics of the day.

Surely it is time we owed Turkey, and Turkish Australians, that respect. Look at the respect Turkey shows our dead.

I ask this question most seriously. Does any country in the world - other than Turkey - permit a people who tried to invade it to commemorate the fact of that attempted invasion on their shores each year? I know of not a single one. Imagine if the descendants of the Japanese pilots who bombed Darwin held an emotional service beneath the Japanese flag on the shores of Darwin Harbour each year.

Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Organisers were hoping for a record 40,000 people at the Shrine of Remembrance, ensuring Melbourne’s dawn service remains as powerful as ever - 95 years since Aussie diggers landed at Gallipoli.
AAP, The Age

Trooper Mark Donaldson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for services in Afghanistan, said it was vital young people take part in Anzac Day.

"You have to keep it alive because if you don't pass it down and make sure they understand what it's about then it's going to be forgotten about," Trooper Donaldson told reporters in Sydney following the march.

Yahoo 7 News.

In 1983, when his yacht, Australia 2, won the America's Cup, owner Alan Bond acknowledged that at one stage his crew had been losing but added "it was just like Gallipoli, and we won that one".

It would be interesting to know exactly how that comment was received in lounge rooms across Australia. Did it feel "right" to most who heard it? My guess is that it did.

Gallipoli was a military disaster. We should note that in justice to the young men who died there. Do we owe them less than we owe those who die in bushfires like Black Saturday? We should also note it in justice to future generations. The voices that urged Australia into the invasion of Iraq were of the same character as those that propelled Australia to Gallipoli in 1914.

Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Many young families, including bleary-eyed children, came to the service. Lynda Brown said her seven-year-old son Callum had an obsession with war history.

‘‘I have been here before and I thought it was a good for him to come along and hopefully get rid of the romanticism of war and hear some stories and see that some people are upset,’’ she said.

AAP, The Age

Propaganda was involved in shaping the popular view of Gallipoli from the start. Take the case of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the man with the donkey. Within six weeks of his death, he had been conscripted into the propaganda war, a newspaper report describing him as ''a six-foot Australian'' with ''a woman's hands'' who said in a British-Australian accent, ''I'll take this fellow next.''

Simmo was a five-foot-eight Geordie with a stoker's hands who spoke in dialect and had fierce Labor politics. His first biographer, a fan of Churchill and acquaintance of Sir Robert Menzies, stripped him of his politics. There was no mention of boozing or fighting. The real Simmo was left in a grave at Gallipoli.

Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Too many of us have felt the effects, national and personal, of our nation's willingness to participate in foreign wars - because, as Australians, we bizarrely saw ourselves as foreign to our own homeland.

It is often claimed that our soldiers died for ''the freedom we enjoy today''. But to a sovereign nation, being truly free means being independent. Even as our monuments, ceremonies and memories of war endure, Australia is surely now mature enough to learn the lessons of its history and face the hard truths behind its myths.

Andrew Herrick, The Age

The Gallipoli peninsula and its pocket-handkerchief of a weatherworn battlefield is the site of a defeat for Australian and New Zealand soldiers (not to mention the British, the French, the Senegalese, the Indians and others from a lost empire), and a defeat that occurred long before any of us who might make the trip now were born.
The band of would-be gypsies, each of them Australian, made it to the Anzac commemorative site well before dawn, found a tiny spot on the lawn, laid out their Turkish carpet and hunkered down among thousands of other travellers for the cold wait, a fingernail moon eventually sliding over the crags and ridges, the Aegean Sea silvering.
No other people travel in such great numbers over such distances to such a curious destination.
Tony Wright, The Age.

It was Ataturk who declared to the mothers of Australia that their sons lay in friendly soil. A group of about 80 Turkish Australians march each year in Melbourne on Anzac Day. Anzac Day would not be the same without them.
Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Further thoughtful, rather than knee-jerk articles (on the dysfunctional relations between Australian politicians and servicemen and women) here, and on Australian's complex and conflicted relationship with the ease with which the country has gone to war and the remarkable limits of the real participation here insipred by a book critical of the Anzac legend.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Terrific post, thanks for the link to your 2009 one as well. I've had the pleasure of visiting the AWM and spending a lot of time in the ANZAC portion - so much so I didn't have time for the section on Vietnam. I'll have to return one day.

Especially enjoyed the link out to the Myth and Legend article. So much of that could be written about the USA as well. We are still as a nation struggling with our response to Vietnam and the correct response to our current soldiers. I think we have internalized the idea that our warriors are not the war. We have opened up Dover for the press to record their sad homecomings. Bush blocked this from us.

However history will record our current follies - we still owe a debt to anyone that puts on a uniform.

Thanks for the reminder.

Happy ANZAC Day to you and all your wonderful countrymen/women.