Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anzac Day 2012

On 25 April, 1915, the volunteer soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps as well as many others landed on the beach at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles. What was meant to be a quick push to over-run the Turkish lines resulted instead in the Australians and New Zealanders fighting to hold the beach for eight months. The loss of life on both sides was horrific - it's estimated 145,000 Allied troops (8709 Australians which for a country with a population of less than five million was an enormous loss) and 186,000 Turks  died - and ultimately pointless because the ANZAC troops were eventually withdrawn without achieving their objective.

 This was the first time Australia was involved in a war as one nation. When the disparate colonies came together as a federation in 1901 links to Great Britain (as it was known then) were strong and an attack on the motherland was regarded as an attack on Australia. Many young men immediately volunteered. In the days before World War One introduced modern weapons and the horrors of trench warfare it seemed an adventure as well as patriotic. The cost was high and became even higher when many of those who survived Gallipoli ended up dying in the trenches of Europe or in the Australian Light Horse charge at Beersheba, the last great cavalry charge before the horse was replaced by machines.

 Old enemies have now made peace and the Turkish Government welcomes the many Australians who visit the war cemeteries of both sides in memory of those who died. April 25 is Anzac Day in Australia when we remember those lost at Gallipoli and in all the conflicts our service men and women have been engaged in since. We mark it with commemoration services at dawn in Australia and in war cemeteries for our dead through out the world. Every year thousands visit the Lone Pine War Cemetery overlooking Gallipoli and Villiers-Bretonneux and other cemeteries in France and Belgium and they visit, too, other cemeteries in the Middle East, in South East Asia, in other parts of Europe, Korea and Vietnam and in times to come they'll visit them in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do not visit these places to glorify war but to remember the sacrifices made in these conflicts.

National days like this are important. There would be few families in Australia who have not been touched by war in one way or another. We need to remember the cost in lives and injuries that often mar the futures of those who suffered them and their families. War is a terrible thing and we must not enter into it lightly.

 Lest we forget.

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