Anzac Spirit 100 years on
There are few days in the year when Australians come together in spirit as much as they do on Anzac day, especially this year with the haunting solo of the last post echoing around the globe from Anzac Cove today. One hundred years on from a dawn landing at Anzac Cove that saw 10 000 young Australians and New Zealanders wade ashore onto an ill-fated beach where many of them lost their lives.
Some years ago, I was lucky enough to accompany my daughter on her school Ancient History tour of Turkey. One memory stands out from this wonderful experience – the morning we spent on the Gallipoli peninsula. It is a place of great beauty, lovely beaches, azure seas and a ruggedness about the sheer impossibly steep cliff that these poor soldiers were expected to climb as they scrambled off the beach. As soon as they waded ashore, they would have realised that they were trapped. I can’t imagine their thoughts at this moment! Many would have died instantly and others left there wounded for hours if not days!
Waiting offshore was the Gascon hospital ship, ill-equipped for the sheer volume and severity of casualties. The captain took on board as many wounded as he was able to, faced with the terrible dilemma of leaving wounded on the beach for days before he could return to pick them up. By then many more had passed away or developed gangrenous wounds! All at a time when there were no antibiotics, and so all that could be done in the case of severe infection was to amputate a limb.
There have been many conflicts in the past century, and during this time Australia lost 102 000 of their finest. With children of my own, I can’t imagine how mothers around the world feel as their young men and women board ships and planes for wars raging continents away. In 1914, as those ships sailed away, the only hope for some contact would have been irregular letters via ship – thankfully in the modern era we have the internet to keep us connected and informed.
It is no wonder that so many people turn out on Anzac day to pay their respects, to connect with their values and to what they hold as important in life. To honour those who made sacrifices so that we can thrive in a free and democratic country. My own father joined the South African air force when he was 17, and soon found himself in North Africa as a pilot and navigator. He was away from home for 6 years, and on his return, rarely spoke of his war years, perhaps memories so painful that he kept them buried! I recall my grandfather having a bad limp from shrapnel in his spine, the legacy of his life at the battle of the Somme in World War 1 (1916).
There would hardly be a family around the world without connection to one of the world wars, and each country would have their own way of remembering and honouring. Here in Australia, Anzac day gives families the opportunity to come together and share the memories. It is a day that blends many life roles; our family, our friends and our community. It gives us a chance to put our working lives aside, and socialize with people we care about as we celebrate the lives that we share in a free and wonderful country.
We stop the busy-ness of our lives to reflect. We give thanks. We send thoughts to those around the world who are currently experiencing conflict and challenges to their freedom. We join hands in a collective desire for all people to live in freedom and with dignity.
It is also a day to ask ourselves some questions:-
- How on a daily basis do we create a time and space to be thankful for the good things in our life?
- How can we reach out to our communities more often so that we can continue to build on the legacy of giving to others for the greater benefit of all
- In what personal way can we contribute our time or our finances to others around the world who are less fortunate than ourselves?
- How can we teach our families about the importance of volunteering and build it into our weekly lives?
- In our own small way, what can we do daily to help build a community of tolerance?
- What Anzac values would you like to build into the way you live your own life?Cheers Alison