Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lest We Forget

Today is Anzac Day.

On this day, way back in 1915, Empire troops landed at Gallipoli, Turkey. Over the ensuing months, thousands died. Most were British, or Canadian, or Indian, but for Australians, this battle marked the first time a large scale Australian force engaged the enemy in the service of the Crown. (It is agreed that a force of about 20,000 went to South Africa over the course of the Boer war, but this fight was the first for Australia following Federation.)

More than the Somme, Gallipoli represents a 'trial by fire' for the ANZACs. Yes, we lost the battle, but out of failure came the image of the laconic, irreverent, courageous Digger.

For many years, Anzac Day meant watching old men march and reminisce, of watching two-up games, of standing around in cool weather and wondering when I could go home.

Since University and discovering the citation of why my grandfather was awarded the Military Cross, that attitude changed - as it did when I found relative who rowed the troops ashore on that dark morning so long ago.

Today is different. We have found the HMAS Sydney, sunk by the German raider Kormoran and missing for sixty years; we have discovered a mass grave at Fromelles of Australian soldiers killed in action and soon to be identified and honour; and we celebrate the courage of SAS trooper Mark Donaldson, VC, the first Australian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in forty years for outstanding bravery in the face of enemy fire in Afghanistan.

But today we not only remember those who fell during conflicts throughout our history, we also think of those still on duty in combat zones in distant lands, doing their jobs with humour and determination and continuing the image of the laconic, irreverent, courageous soldier.

No comments: