April 25 is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. It is the anniversary of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops (ANZACs) landing on a beach at Gallipoli, Turkey, on April 25, 1915.
The Gallipoli landing in 1915 was the first military action by ANZAC troops during the first world war and is generally regarded here in Australia as the point in time that we ‘grew up’ as a nation.
We don’t celebrate ANZAC Day because Gallipoli was a wonderful military victory. In fact, it was a disastrous defeat.
We remember ANZAC Day because it was the first time that we, as a nation, learned about the collective pain, sacrifice and heartbreak of war. We honor the sacrifice made by those who serve and choose to reflect with sobriety on the tasks our servicemen and women have undertaken in various theatres of war since Gallipoli.
The objective of the Gallipoli campaign was to take Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman empire (they were chummy with the German enemy at the time) and make the straits of the Dardanelles available to the allied naval forces. What ensued was an eight month campaign in an area now called ANZAC Cove – the Turkish government officially recognised the name in the 1980’s – that saw more than 10,000 ANZACs killed, along with 21,000 British soldiers, 10,000 French and over 1,000 British Indian troops. There were tens of thousands of casualties on the Ottoman side, too.
I’m not a pro-war person, but I do recognise the need to protect our borders, support our allies and be present and accounted for in a time of need. Today we remember those who have placed themselves in harm’s way on behalf of our nation. Some have returned, many have not.
The following verse, originally written by Laurence Binyon, will be recited in services all around Australia today.
They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
LEST WE FORGET.