Anzac Day 2012

The Australian divisions and the New Zealanders had become what they were to remain for the rest of the war – the spearhead of the British Army.

                              John Terraine, British Military Historian

Today is Anzac Day, a date which has huge meaning for the people of New Zealand and Australia.  At the beginning of World War I both nations raised great volunteer armies, making up a large percentage of their adult male populations, and sent them off to fight.  In the bitter Gallipoli Campaign, the attempt by the Allies to take the Dardanelles from the Turks, conquer Constantinople and open up a supply line to Russia via the Black Sea, the Anzac troops distinguished themselves by their stubborn courage and resourcefulness.  Although the Gallipoli campaign ultimately ended in failure, the Australian and New Zealand troops came out it with a reputation as hard fighters, shock troops, a reputation they earned time and again on battlefields throughout World Wars I and II.  American veterans I have talked to who fought with Australian and New Zealand troops have repeatedly told me that they could ask for no finer fighters to have at their side in a battle.

The video at the beginning of this post is entitled Heroes of Gallipoli and is made up of the only film footage taken during the campaign.  It was restored a few years ago by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame.  It is a fitting tribute to very brave men, and the nations who gave them birth.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

 Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

 They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

 They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

 Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

 At the going down of the sun and in the morning

 We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

 

4 Responses to Anzac Day 2012

  • Thanks for this Don.
    Each year this day comes round I recall with some emotion my grandfather Don Piper who was among the first ashore at Anzac cove this day 97 yeaqrs ago, to be joined a few weeks later by his future brother in law, my great uncle Eustace Nicholson. Pop Piper was a Cornishman of Scottish descent – his family, pipers of the McDonald clan, were cleared off their highland lands in the 17th.century clearances – and he was told, that all cornishmen are miners and tunnellers, so he was a tunneller – like it or not. He had come to NZ at 22 years old in 1912.
    When I was a boy I used to listen with bated breath, how he would describe, in his Cornish accent, how they would tunnel under “the Turk”, fill the tunnel with high expolsive, set the fuse a get outa there. He survived Galipoli – as did uncle Eustie, and they both ended up in the trenches in France – Pop Piper gained the rank of Leutenant, and Uncle Eustie a Seargent Major. He was wounded and repatriated in 1917, courted and married Eustice’s sister Katherine Rose Nicholson. My mum was born on the 19th October 1918.
    My dad’s oldest brother George also went to the trenches in France and was gassed, and repatriated in 1918. Dad was only 3 years old when the Galipoli landing occurred.
    I must say( I hate to admit it ;-) ) that one of the very very very few things that the Aussies do better than us ;-) in the way they celebrate Anzac Day. We in NZ do a great job of commerating it, but the Aussies CELEBRATE it, as I well recall from my 10 year in Oz back in the 80’s, and here are a couple of links to some sombre but stirring songs from Australia.
    The Pogues – And the band played Waltzing Matilda:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZqN1glz4JY

    and Eric Bogel – The Gift of Years:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qcn8INbBaQ

    A song from my era in Oz by the then very popular group, Redgum, which brings in the Vietnam era:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAwvH8FbdjM

    Lest We Forget.
    Thanks, and God Bless.

  • We owe your relatives who served Don a debt that can never be repaid. Faith, Love, Courage and Joy, prime elements in a life well led, are all well represented on Anzac Day.

    I think you will appreciate this quote about the 2nd New Zealand division written by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel:

    “This division, with which we had already become acquainted back in 1941-1942, was among the elite of the British Army and I should have been very much happier if it had been safely tucked away in our prison camps instead of still facing us.”

  • There is a wonderful memorial at Anzac Cove on the Galipoli Peninsular, with a tribute written by Kemal Ataturk – a beautiful gesture of forgiveness.

    Those heroes who 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 between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.
    You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away 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.”

    Ataturk – 1934

  • Thirty years ago NZ expelled the Argentine ambassador (who must have been singularly useless as he didn’t speak English), offered naval support (HMNZS Canterbury) and during the conflict supplied valuable communications support and elint. Kiwis were certainly flavour of the month then! Margaret Thatcher, never one to forget a favour, responded by fighting NZ’s corner in Europe regarding lamb and butter quotas.

    The UK also had considerable support from the USA, France and Chile, but the extent of this did not emerge until after the conflict.

    The ANZAC contribution in both world wars was remarkable given the small population of both countries. Americans often forget that when Englishmen of previous generations referred to ‘the Empire’ they were not primarily referring to their colonial subjects, but rather of the self-governing white ‘dominions’ – Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

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