Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anzac Day: A Yank's Perspective

This day of days again we keep -
In memory of those who sleep
Away beyond the quiet sea.....
Away in far Gallipolli. '

Tis Anzac Day - 'tis Anzac Day..
Our soldier comrades far away,
They died in war - that we in peace
May live and love that war may cease
ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), celebrated on April 25th, is one of Australia and New Zealand's most important observances. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. It was also the first occasion in which Australian and New Zealand military were commanded by their own officers rather that British. The soldiers in those forces became known as ANZACs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

I am making this post on April 24th for two reasons: (1) April 25 begins in Australia and New Zealand more than half a day before it does in the United States and (2) this may be my last post for a while. Bellsouth is threatening to discontinue my Internet service any day now. My first pension check is "in the mail" but I may not receive it in time for me to pay the Bellsouth bill.

I first learned of ANZAC Day many years ago from a song by Eric Bogle entitled The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The song chronicles the First World War attack by British Commonwealth forces on the Gallipoli peninsula, a part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. The ANZACs formed a major portion of the attacking forces. The last verses (below) of Bogle's song are what turned me on to ANZAC Day and began my research many years ago:
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.

The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,

Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.

And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,

I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,

To grieve, to mourn and to pity.

But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"

As they carried us down the gangway,

But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,

Then they turned all their faces away.

And so now
every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.

And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,

And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff an
d sore,
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war

And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"

And I ask meself the same question.

But the band plays "Waltzing Matilda,"

And the old men still answer the call,

But as year follows year, more old men disappear

Someday, no one will march there at all.

Suvla Bay, Gallipoli , 1915

The Gallipoli campaign, the first major engagement of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, was a hellish fiasco. Winston Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, pressed for a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The ensuing battle loss of 147,000 Allied casualties (more than 33,600 ANZAC losses, over one-third killed) resulted in Churchill's resignation.

However, even in defeat, Gallipoli was seen as a time of glory for the ANZACs. Today there is an ANZAC Memorial at Gallipoli set aside by the government of Turkey as sacred ground to honor the Allied army that invaded it in 1915:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. . . You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference to us between the ‘Johnnies’ and the ‘Mehmets,’ where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. . . You, the mothers, who sent your sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well. ~ M. Kemal Ataturk
And for Australians and New Zealanders, there is ANZAC Day, the day of remembrance of heroes of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915.

Today we remember with thanksgiving those who made the supreme sacrifice for us in time of war. We pray that the offering of their lives may not have been in vain. Today we dedicate ourselves to the cause of justice, freedom and peace; and for the wisdom and strength to build a better world. ~ from ANZAC Day Remembrance Service

Additional Links

ANZAC Day in New Zealand

ANZAC Day in Queensland


Remembrance Services

A poppy for ANZAC day

Anzac Day Ceremonies in Australia 2007

Anzac Day Ceremonies Overseas 2007

Anzac Day Services Gallipoli, Turkey - 2007

ANZAC Services 2007 in the United States of America

1981 Film, Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson & Mark Lee


  1. I glanced about ANZAC Day on one site after I saw it on Merle's blog, but you have a much more detailed account - interesting. ec

  2. Another excellent post, Rev. Saint! You put quite a bit into this one.

    I appreciate Bogle's music and this is one of my favorites.

  3. Dear Nick ~~ Thank you so very much for this tribute to the Anzacs and you have done it very well. That was
    so good of you Nick and you have spent a lot of time and effort, when you have other problems. I hope that cheque gets there pronto so you can stay on the internet. Take care, my friend, Regards, Merle.

  4. Nick that's an excellent post about ANZAC Day. Hope you're having a good one back in the States and that Belsouth doesn't cut off your access, because you have a good blog here! Cheers, Brandon

  5. I'm fairly certain I have that song on a cd my friend made me of popular Australian tunes. I'll have to find it and give it a listen in honor of the day.

    Good luck with the internet.

  6. I hope you don't have to leave us again. It sure would be great if you can hold onto your internet until your money gets here!

  7. From one historian to another: thanks for the history lesson.

  8. Hi Nick, I'm here via Merle's blog, she is my sister, that was an excellent post i'm so pleased Eric Bogle wrote/and you listened to, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

  9. Dearest Nick

    What a wonderful post on Anzac Day. Thank you so much for that, believe me it is much appreciated.

    I do hope that Bellsouth come to the party and keep you online until your cheque arrives. Best of luck and thinking of you.

    Big hug to you and Alex.

  10. Hi Nick ~~ Thank you for your comments. The first song I heard this morning was "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", Eric Bogle's song but it was sung by John Williamson, an Aussie country singer. The shame
    is that there are still wars, even
    after the "War to end all Wars."
    Hope all is well with you and you still have the net. Take care,Cheers,

  11. I had no clue. This was really cool to read.


  12. Interesting, very interesting, I became so involved in the history that I followed all of your links and I plan to rent the Mel Gibson movie. Thank you.

  13. Very interesting post, Nick. As always you've done a great deal of research and put a lot of thought in to your post. Thank you.

  14. as usual, you've posted something relevant and educational! Thanks!

    btw, thanks for your continuing prayers, as mine continue for you re your health and finances, and Alex, and all things Nick :)

  15. You would really enjoy the dawn service that they have over here... and all of the stories that are told. I am yet to get through an Anzac Day without shedding a tear. It is such a heart wrencher.

    Much love Nick.