Anzac Day on April 25 is one of Australia’s only binding pieces of cultural thread. Our Anzac heritage ties us together as Australians no matter how else we might be capable of being divided. War did not discriminate between regional or metropolitan lines, its impacts and sacrifices crossed socio-economic boundaries, and the effort drew from all of the colours of the rainbow.
105 years on from the pinnacle of our Anzac tradition, that bloody battle on the shores of Gallipoli. As a young nation of First People, British outcasts, free settlers and the bravest from all over the world, The Battle Of Gallipoli was the event that forged our spirit, as Australians.
In the retrospective of Gallipoli, we learn what the soldiers then did not know, and that was that the Turks had intelligence and were expecting the landing. British command knew of the impending ambush and used the Australian hopeless cause to the advantage of the overall allied strategy. The slaughter of Australians enabled the safe landing of British Forces in Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula, in an effort to force the Dardanelles Straight and capture Constantinople, now Istanbul.
For many Australians, the British decision to sacrifice Australian lives was an unforgivable betrayal and there are undertones of that in the Republican movement today. If we were dispensable to the British Command, we needed to become Australian and to stand for something that was of our own, and not something to be shared with other subjects in the Commonwealth.
What it means to be Australian: mateship, fairness, equity – those are values born on the beach in Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.
The lore of the Anzacs on that beach is not a story of military prowess, finesse or strength. It is not a battle that was won. It was a battle that saw the hopeless campaign of young men on some of the most hostile terrain imaginable. Fighting and continuing to fight, against hopelessness as much as any enemy.
The tenacity and the grit of the Anzac is about being overwhelmed in every conceivable way, and yet managing to bear down and force a frustrating stalemate that they maintained for the remainder of the year.
War historians say that the most successful aspect of the Anzac campaign was the evacuation of troops, as many of the remaining troops were successful in the retreat, which occurred over two days between the 19 and 20th of December. Between the 25 April and the 20 December, the Anzacs held on – together.
While war is typically old men fighting and young men dying, for Australians at Gallipoli, the war was democratic. A total of 26,111 Australian lives were lost throughout the campaign including 1,007 officers.
As Australians, we can not observe Anzac Day in our usual way. We cannot gather together as the beneficiaries of that sacrifice, for a ritual at the rising of the sun to remember those who gave their service. The danger of doing so would be to sacrifice Australian life, and certainly, that goes against the notion of the Anzacs, who forged ‘Australian’ life and gave so much to protect it.
We are distanced but we are together in spirit and the RSL is encouraging all Australians to Light Up The Dawn. As primary school children, we learned of the Anzacs that at the rising of the sun, we will remember them. This year, the call goes out to every Australian to stand on their driveway at 6am with a candle. You can stream a short audio file of the dawn service, including Acknowledgement of Country, The Ode, The Last Post, A minute’s silence, and Reveille.
The stream will be available via this link: https://www.rslnsw.org.au/news/light-up-the-dawn-on-anzac-day/
Lest We Forget.