Monday, April 25, 2011


Today is ANZAC Day. It is a day of two halves: the Dawn Services around the world at various points of military import, and the afternoon games of AFL, NRL... and two-up down the pub.

The morning is for commemoration; the afternoon, for celebration. One for death, one for life.

It sums up the ANZAC spirit, where we will lower our heads to think of those who fought in foreign lands for freedom and never returned; then, it's a wake, the telling of tales of battles long won or lost and keeping the memory of fallen mates alive.

At the end of the First World War, the discussion turned to reparations and the punishment of Germany.

President Woodrow Wilson (who won the presidency on the promise not to enter the war) advocated generous terms for reparations. In a moment of supreme arrogance, he said to Australian Prime Minister, Billy Hughes (who once punched out a heckler during a campaign for conscription and was as aggrieved as any Australian over the catastrophic losses), "But you only speak for five million people." The offended Hughes snapped back, "I speak for 60,000 dead. For how many do you speak?"

There is no hierarchy on who lost more, every nation involved lost too many due to the military incompetence of those in charge. If Douglas Haig had actually seen the ground on which he sent thousands to fight, he might have developed a different strategy. But he didn't, content to stay at a chateau behind the lines and study out of date maps.

It is the bravery of those men who did their duty, even knowing it meant certain death, that we commemorate today. The sacrifice is not forgotten. As the warriors of all wars are honoured, we salute those who are still in the field, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in East Timor and elsewhere.

And thank them all for their service.

No comments: