On the 25 April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) landed in Gallipoli, Turkey. This was the ANZACs’ first major military action of World War I, and it was to be a devastating campaign for both the Turkish and Allied forces. Just over 8700 Australian troops died at Gallipoli, along with over 2700 New Zealanders and over 32,000 other Allied soldiers. Around 60,000 Turkish soldiers died protecting their lands, which they did successfully after a horrific eight-month campaign.
I could write much more about the Gallipoli offensive — the ludicrous nature of the campaign, the presence of the revered Turkish commander Mustafa Kamal (today known as ‘Atatürk’ or ‘Father of Turkey’) who went on to revolutionise Turkish government and society, Gallipoli’s ongoing significance in shaping certain aspects of Australian culture — but I won’t. The reason I’m writing about the Gallipoli offensive is its date: 25 April. Tomorrow.
Every year on 25 April, Australians and Kiwis commemorate the ANZACs who fought in wars throughout our history. Originally held in honour of those who died in Gallipoli, this memorial day has broadened to remember all soldiers who have died and served in military actions up until the present day.
ANZAC Day is a public holiday, with memorial services and parades held across the country. Here in Melbourne, ANZAC Day begins with the Dawn Service, held at 6am at the Shrine of Remembrance Forecourt. At 6.30am the public is invited to a breakfast, which represents the soldiers’ last meal before going into battle. Participation in the breakfast is by coin gold donation, with the proceeds going to assist veterans.
From 9am until 12.30pm a Commemoration March begins from outside the National Gallery of Victoria. At 1pm a Commemoration Service is held, again at the Shrine of Remembrance.
To me, ANZAC Day is not about glorifying military victories; it’s about remembering the victims of war, and ensuring we don’t forget the horrors that occur when governments lead their people into unnecessary conflict.
With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this song, originally by Australian band Redgum but covered here by hip-hop band The Herd. You might like to read the lyrics as you listen.
To find out more about ANZAC Day and Australia’s military history, visit the Australian War Memorial’s website.