On this 99th Anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops at Gallipoli, we Commemorate the event with special sadness because for the first time,
the men who made that faithful landing on the 25th of April 1915 are no longer with us.
It is therefore, that we revisit the reasons why we Commemorate ANZAC DAY, and exactly what it means to us all as a Nation and as individuals.
It is often been said that Australia came of age on the morning some 13 years after Federation.
That may be true and perhaps that is why we hold the day in such high regard in our national calendar. It certainly is not to celebrate a great Military Victory, because the landing and subsequent the Battle at GALLIPOLI was not that. The ANZAC Force was landed at the wrong place, after setting out at about 3.30am from the fleet of ships anchored off shore, on a a night so dark, not even the shoreline was visible. They initially encountered fairly light fire from the Turkish defenders, but the Turkish positions were quickly reinforced, and by mid morning the
Australians and the New Zealanders were faced with withering riffle and machine gun fire from
above. At the end of that first day 2,000 Men lay dead for the gain of about six square Kilometers and any advance of scarcely one Kilometer inland, where they clung desperately to a small foothold. It was a Military disaster from any viewpoint, except for the well planned and successful evacuation which followed some eight months later.
The final count of the Allies dead in the Gallipoli Campaign was 250,000, of which 10,000 were
But of course it is just not Gallipoli we remember on this day, nor is it even the First World War. This is a day set aside for us all to collectively give thanks to all those Men and Woman, who have put their lives at risk, and and in many cases paid the supreme price. We also acknowledge the losses and sacrifices of their Families. These Men and Woman did not start the Wars in which they were involved, that was the responsibility of the Government of the day and our Government is the agent of the People of Australia. The Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen and Woman therefore, were fighting of all the people of Australia.
What they did was to offer their very existence when they were told that their Country needed them. I say their Country, but it many cases, particularly in the First World War, they were doing so for a Country which was not theirs by birth or even Citizenship, for many of them had been born overseas and were Australian by Immigration.
Anzac Day is therefore a day for all Australians, regardless of religion, racial background or even place of birth. It is a day to commemorate the bravery and self-sacrifice of past and present generations. It is a day to acknowledge the selflessness of all those who have been prepared to lay down their lives for Australia so that it can be a place of freedom for all. On this ANZAC day,
we thank and recognize those who served in the First and Second World Wars, KOREA,MALAYA,
VIETNAM, GULF, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN and other peace keeping areas our Forces operate.
ANZAC Day is not a day for honoring War, for War is not something to be honored. War is something which is used as a last resort when diplomacy has failed and is used by a Nation to safeguard its Sovereignty.
We do however, on ANZAC Day, Honour the people of Australia who have undertaken warfare to protect that Sovereignty, no matter how distasteful it may have been to them personally and in spite of risk of losing their lives.
ANZAC Day is not merely a date, or some remote Campaign, but rather a spirit. It is a time to reflect on the qualities of past Generations of Australians who in hardship displayed courage, Discipline, self Sacrifice, self –Reliance, Resourcefulness and Friendship.
Even as the numbers of Ex-Servicemen and Women grow smaller, the spirit of ANZAC Day, which was bequeathed to us from Battlefields long ago, we will live on in our lives because it is a reflection of the very heart of our Nation.
History shows that, for a peace loving people, we have been a formidable adversary, when stirred to action and also remarkably successful at the business of war. On every occasion when Australians have been called upon to protect freedom, they have done so generously, effectively and efficiently.
Gallipoli of course stands out on ANZAC Day. At the conclusion of the War a quarter of a million Australians from a Nation of only 5 Million had been Casualties, and sixty thousand Australians had been killed, a tragic average of one person for every seventeen in our population, either dead or injured as a result of War.
ANZAC Day is more than a National Holiday, but rather a fundamental Australian tradition.
Wherever Australians or New Zealanders are to be found today, it is likely that an ANZAC Day
Service of some description is taken place. Such is the feeling that Australians have for the
25TH of April.
The ANZAC spirit exists in each of us so therefore let us be guided by the ANZAC spirit in facing the National and personal challenges ahead, and let us strive to be worthy of their sacrifice.
LEST WE FORGET
Hellenic RSL Melbourne.