26 April 2012

ANZAC Day 2012

Yesterday was ANZAC day. It was our first as Australian Citizens, and it felt a lot more real this year. Maybe it had something to do with pledging that I could be conscripted if the need arises, and with the way of the world at the moment, that is really quite scary.
 Here is what Wikipedia has to say:
Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand, a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same remembrance day, but making reference to both countries in its name. When war broke out in 1914, Australia and New Zealand had been dominions of the British Empire for thirteen and seven years respectively.
In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, according to a plan by Winston Churchill to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk). What had been planned as a bold strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The Allied casualties included 21,255 from the United Kingdom, an estimated 10,000 dead soldiers from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from British India. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war. 
Though the Gallipoli campaign failed to achieve its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the actions of the Australian and New Zealander troops during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an "Anzac legend" became an important part of the national identity in both countries. This has shaped the way their citizens have viewed both their past and their understanding of the present.
Despite federation being proclaimed in Australia in 1901, many argue the "national identity" of Australia was largely forged during the violent conflict of World War I, and the most iconic event in the war for most Australians was the landing at Gallipoli. 
Anzac Day is a national public holiday and is considered by many Australians to be one of the most solemn days of the year. After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of Anzac Day remembrance. Marches by veterans from all past wars, as well as current serving members of the Australian Defence Force and Reserves, with allied veterans as well as the Australian Defence Force Cadets and Australian Air League and supported by members of Scouts Australia, Guides Australia, and other uniformed service groups, are held in cities and towns nationwide. 
The Anzac Day Parade from each state capital is televised live with commentary. These events are generally followed by social gatherings of veterans, hosted either in apublic house or in an RSL club, often including a traditional Australian gambling game called two-up, which was an extremely popular pastime with ANZAC soldiers. The importance of this tradition is demonstrated by the fact that though most Australian states have laws forbidding gambling outside of designated licensed venues, on Anzac Day it is legal to play "two-up". 

I was up at 4:15, and  at the war memorial in Kings Park at about 5:15.
They show documentaries and footage on big screens before the service.
The dawn ceremony at Kings park is very traditional- the whole thing is mainly silent. 
Wreaths were laid, the last post was played, and for a long time people just stood in the cold silence of the early dawn light and remembered. After the formal proceedings, a short speech was made about while we were all gathered. After the ceremony, there was a flyover by some old bi-planes.

There were so many people there! I know its the capital city, and I've never been involved in a major town Remembrance parade in the UK, but I was astounded by how many people of all ages were there. One report I just read said that there were 40,000 people there!

After the dawn service, there was free gunfire breakfast (rum and coffee), and at 9:30 the main parade began. I marched with my new band. Its been a long time, but all went well.

This segment especially brought a tear to my eye. 
There were about 5 of them, probably at least in their 80s, walking behind the banner, and behind them the daughters and granddaughters of those who were no longer here.

After the parade, there is a religious service. While I am not religious, we stayed on because its still important to remember in our own way.

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