Anzac Day

The modern nation of Australia is very fortunate not to have been seriously impacted by invasion or defeat in war, but there are still millions of Australian individuals and families who have been touched terribly by war in one way or another. If we could find ways to more clearly amplify the individual human and family impact of war, we might be less keen to wage it. I am not a pacifist, and accept that it some rare cases war is the least worst option, but as a species we still leap into it far too readily and put far too little into preventative efforts.

I think it is a pity that Remembrance Day has become less significant in recent times, as to me it seems more effective as a recognition of the universal truth of the tragedy and loss of war, without being as coloured by the excessive nationalism that can occur with Anzac Day.

I wrote a bit more on this back in 2004, which you can read by clicking here.

I was very fortunate to visit Gallipoli last year. You can read my post about that visit by clicking here. Visiting there does help provide a wider understanding of the experiences and history involved, including the crucial role the battle played in the formation of the modern Turkish nation. I’d like to go back to get a better look around the while Gallipoli peninsula. We naturally focussed on the ANZAC’s area, which is only a small part of a much wider area the Turks had to defend.

Seeing the inhospitable terrain may give a tiny insight, but there is no real way to comprehend the horrors of what the people there went through. The landscape is naturally changing over time, as well as the changes forced on it by the huge numbers of visitors and of course the many cemeteries and memorials that are now there. Anzac Cove itself is very different, with a much shallower beach. A special area had to be built to accommodate the growing numbers who attend each year’s dawn service, which is not actually held at Anzac Cove now, but just around the corner at the next beach.

After visiting Gallipoli, I read Les Carlyon’s book on the subject. Click here to read a good speech by the author which outlines some of the themes he explores in his book. It is a very comprehensive and well documented history, written with lots of colour, (albeit occasionally a bit too florid for my liking). It is as much about the politics, society and individuals of the time as it is about the failures of particular military campaigns and leaders.

I found it particularly interesting in its exploration of how it is in the nature of the political (and military) leader to have to lie, in part because of an assumption that the others are doing it too. This all leads us down a path to madness – one could argue that in times when war is upon us it may be a necessary madness, but it comes at a terrible price.

This is perhaps exemplified by the quote attributed to the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, who at the height of the slaughter known as the First World War confided to the editor of the Manchester Guardian that “If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.”

Carlyon’s book makes clear the determination of the Australian authorities to ensure the real story of the slaughter at Gallipoli did not get out the Australian community, as it would have hurt recruitment efforts. In other echoes of today, the British command had ample intelligence information about the folly of attacking through the Dardanelles and a land assault on the Gallipoli peninsula, but they did it anyway, and then persisted far after it was clear it was likely to fail.

There is a combination of ignoring information they didn’t want to hear, not wanting to admit a mistake and the need to keep previous deceits covered up. There are many modern parallels, which is an indicator not so much about the character of certain individuals, but the flaws that we are all prone to as human beings.

ELSEWHERE:
There are a series of different posts on Anzac Day on the Larvatus Prodeo site. The post by Gummo also voices a preference for November 11th.

Barista writes well about the topic, as usual, and also regrets the neglect of Remeberance (or Armistice) Day.

Other substantive posts on the topic are at Suki has an Opinion, who touches on the ‘Sea of Orange’ protest of some veterans, and at Polemica, who also has a separate post detailing the stories of members of the Australian Flying Corps from World War I in their own words.

This post has an interesting reflection on Weary Dunlop, the man and the statue. Pavlov’s Cat has some reflections on her family’s interaction with war service.

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