ANZAC Day

 The ANZAC Dedication: For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon

They shall not grow old,
As we that 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.
We will remember them.

Being so far from the Antipodes on Anzac Day does not stop one thinking about the day and remembering what its all about, in fact I think it has made me think about it more deeply than I did when I was there. For many years I have attended the dawn service and spent the morning thinking about the day but then, like many other Antipodeans, I have just enjoyed the public holiday. Being in Korea has perhaps shed further light on the day for me as here war is still a recent occurrence. Young Korean men are required to give two years of their lives to the military and so you see them everyday. I live very near an American Air Force base and the jets and helicopters fly over daily on manoeuvres. Sometimes the helicopters fly so low you can see the arsenel of weapons they carry. So war is never too far from people’s thoughts here.

War drew us from our homeland in the sunlit springtime of our youth.

Those who did not come back alive remain in perpetual springtime

— forever young —

and a part of them is with us always.

Unknown

 What is ANZAC Day? For those that hail from the Antipodes, I know you have heard it all before, but I have been asked a few times today what it is and I promised a short history lesson, so here goes.

ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  ANZAC Day is commemorated on the 25th of April. It is a day set aside as a public holiday in New Zealand and Australia to think about, remember, and honour, those who have fought for our freedom during times of war.

Originally the term “ANZAC” only referred to those who fought in WWI and the day was initially linked to the landing of the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles in 1915. The day was first memorialised as ANZAC Day in 1916 with services held to commemorate the lives lost in the 8 month that the ANZAC forces spent on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It did not become a public holiday until the early 1920s when pressure was brought to bear by returned soldiers and their organisation to ensure that everyone was able to attend services to remember the fallen.

It was later decided that the day should also remember those who served in WWII. Today it also includes the men and women who have served in later wars such as Vietnam and Korea, and those that continue to fight in the Middle East and around the world as well as those that serve as peace keepers in places like Bosnia and Bougainville.

Dawn Services, and wreath laying ceremonies, are held throughout New Zealand and across Australia each ANZAC Day. Many communities have some form of memorial commemorating the war dead and these are usually the focal point of any ANZAC Day services. These services are generally extremely well attended, in fact it would appear that as they years pass more and more people are electing to remember the importance of this day and going to memorial services. The fear that the day would become less important as the veterans of WWI passed on has proven unfounded. All the Gallipoli veterans have now passed away and the numbers attending memorial services continues to grow.

Red poppies, usually considered to be a symbol of Remembrance Day, are closely associated with ANZAC DAY in Australia and New Zealand and are sold each year by veterans groups. Poppies grew wild throughout Europe and were a common site on battlefields as they grow in well turned soil, which most battlefields would have had.

The casualties at Gallipoli were huge and thousands of Australians and New Zealanders lost their lives and many thousands more were injured. It seems only fitting that we have a day set aside to remember their sacrifice, and the continued sacrifices made by those that have served, and continue to serve, in our armed forces to protect us.

Have you forgotten yet? . . .

Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget! . . .

Have you forgotten yet? . . .

Look up, and swear by the green of spring that you’ll never forget!

From “Aftermath” by Siegfried Sassoon, 1919

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