Anzac March Sydney - 1999 - Author far right.

Video courtesy of You-Tube

     For readers from overseas who are not familiar with the Australian/NZ tradition of ANZAC Day, the commemoration begins with a dawn service. It recalls the landing at Anzac Cove, near Gallipoli, in the Dardenelles area of Turkey, by Australian and New Zealand forces (the ‘ANZACS’) on 25 April 1915. That attack was planned and conducted by an incompetent section of the British military hierarchy (Kitchener, Churchhill and Hamilton). The campaign resulted in a total disaster lasting some 8 months, needlessly costing the lives of  around ten thousand young men. Finally, after 8 months the ANZAC forces were successfully withdrawn under cover of darkness and shipped to Greece and thence to the trenches on the Western Front, where many of these Gallipoli survivors were killed in action over the next 3 years.                                                                                                 What came out of Gallipoli was the worldwide recognition of Australia’s (and NZ’s) war effort (far above that of any other nation per capita) and the formalisation of the Australian legend, based largely on the qualities of resourcefulness and mateship, displayed in the face of hardship. During the subsequent  century, further generations have continued the spirit of ANZAC in various war zones around the world. [NB. ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps].
     ANZAC Day does not have to be attended formally to commemorate it. Some may care to spend the day attending some sporting event or indulging in some relaxing interest. What is important is that the day is enjoyed and recalled, even if only for a brief moment, by all those who are free to enjoy the fruits of the efforts of those who sacrificed their lives or risked their safety, in order that we all might be able to do just that. There will of course always be the ignorant minority, who fail to comprehend the genesis of their freedom and so become self-alienated from the concept of this special day. That sadly is their loss! 

                     ♪♪ And the ANZAC Legend didn't mention, mud and blood and tears …
                          And the stories that my father told me, never seemed quite real …
                          I caught some pieces in my back, that I didn’t even feel …
                         God help me! ... I was only ... nine-teen! ♪♪   

                                                                                       - from the song I Was Only 19,  by Redgum, 1983.



Pitch black through the wire,
Insects on fire,
Strain and rain on my face, as I stare;
What’s that I see,
Near that rubber tree?
Perhaps shadows from a parachute flare. 

A whisper, a shake:
“Hey! Are you now awake?”
That auditory impulse ’tis clear;
Still confusing my brain:
“Picket again?”
I’ll pretend, that I just didn’t hear. 

Another nightmare,
Anxiety I share,
Reactions, that few understand;
’Twas 4 a.m.,
Ebony like then,
Flashbacks, to a strange foreign land. 

Time to get dressed,
Coat hanging, pre-pressed,
Coloured ribbons fade with time;
And yet they represent,
On this one event,
Special bonds with mates of mine. 

By train or by bus,
And ferries full of us,
The fare on this day is for free;
A grey ship like a ghost,
Garden Island its host,
Triggering weird thoughts within me. 

A service at dawn,
To reflect upon,
War and all of its violence;
A tribute, a wreath,
A nation’s grief,
A bugle breaking that eerie silence. 

This haunting sound,
Echoes right around,
The entire nation, for all to pause;
As those chilling notes,
From ‘The Last Post’,
Reminds us of dreadful costs in all wars. 

Yet, there is a trace,
In the odd vacant face,
Lack of pride, perhaps distaste;
Respect ’tis nought,
Show no support,
Since such sacrifice to them was a waste. 

Everyone ’tis true,
Has rights to a view,
And yet ignore how those rights were won;
And still glad, somehow,
Our flag hasn’t now,
Been changed to a Rising Sun. 

Though to the past most try,
To say goodbye,
Yet the debt, to the dead, will stay;
And that price they paid,
Spawns this parade,
Performed every ANZAC Day.

*  *  *

‘Vets’ congregate,
To commemorate,
Together, after years apart;
Others stand alone,
All on their own,
Awaiting, for the march to start. 

Spit-polished boots,
Bagpipes and flutes,
Trombones and drums commence their beat;
Then successive groups,
Just like army troops,
Step off in turn, on their left feet.

Crowds lining six deep,
Old ladies weep,
Although cheering and clapping hands;
Aussie flags flying,
All veterans trying,
To keep in time with the bands. 

Flowers adorn,
A symbol to morn,
An icon, on our mapped-out route;
A silent recall,
Of those who gave all,
Heads turn united, in salute. 

Tired thirsty souls,
Off to ‘watering holes’,
Perhaps with pain held deep inside;
Things forced to do,
Sad memories too,
Of a time when mates had died. 

In reminiscing,
A few gaps still missing,
News of what’s happened in a year;
Another grandson born,
Another ‘Digger’ gone,
“It’s your ‘shout’ again!”, I hear. 

Finally unwound,
Most circle around,
Adventures turned to jokes;
No self-awarding,
Nor self-applauding,
Just yarns of mates and other blokes. 

Some stop in pubs,
In parks or clubs,
Two spinning pennies thrown high;
A gambling game,
‘Two-Up’ is its name,
And the police turn one blind eye. 

“It’s a bloody date!
So I’ll ring you, mate!”
Promises they rarely keep;
Then heading back home,
Feeling all alone,
And dreading that night’s restless sleep. 

If people want to know,
Why we always go?
I guess there’s just one thing left to say:
“If you’re sincere,
Attend next year,
And become part of ANZAC Day!”