V is for valour…
Today is Anzac Day in Australia (and New Zealand). This won’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t live in either of those countries, but for those of us who do it is an extremely significant day. Anzac is actually an acronym – ANZAC stands for Australia & New Zealand Army Corps, which is the banner under which our troops fought in World War I and World War II. For Australians, World War I was the first time that we had fought in an international conflagration as a federated country (before 1901, we had been six separate colonies with no federal government), and was largely seen as a baptism of fire for a brand new nation.
Anzac Day itself commemorates the landing by Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles (Turkey) on 25 April 1915. A carefully planned dawn landing became a national tragedy as thousands of young soldiers landed on a beach flanked by high cliffs, easy targets for the Turkish troops stationed on the cliff tops. Many lives were lost on that first day of what was to become a drawn out campaign lasting 8 months.
The Gallipoli campaign was an unmitigated disaster. Thousands of lives were lost in order to take a few kilometres of land in order to satisfy the British command’s flawed campaign plans. In the end, the Anzac troops were forced to retreat under cover of darkness in December 1915, and most of the soldiers were then sent to the Western Front in France. Yet, strangely, the Gallipoli campaign and Anzac Day itself have come to be seen by Australians as epitomising the best of the Australian spirit – mateship, courage in the face of adversity, and always backing the underdog even in face of impossible odds.
Today, Anzac Day is commemorated by dawn services around the country and in many parts of the world where Australians have fought and lost their lives – France, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, and Turkey – as well as Australia. Veterans march proudly and we remember the sacrifices made on our behalf so that we can live the privileged and liberated lives that we enjoy.
Today, Australians remember and give thanks. Always.