Lest We Forget – ANZAC Day, 25 April 2012

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli - The Dawn Service

They shall not grow 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.

Lest we Forget.

Today is ANZAC DAY, a special day in the heart of all Australians, as we stop to remember the fallen – the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps of the Great War –  and all of the service men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country with that same ANZAC spirit.

April 25 marks the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915 – it was the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand troops, as part of the Commonwealth. In sad fact, the Gallipoli Campaign was a resounding defeat for the ANZACs, with much loss of life. So why do we choose to use that loss as a point of remembrance? Despite that defeat, and the futility of the entire campaign, the name ANZAC became synonymous with that bond of mateship, courage and pride.  That spirit which still holds true today.

As in every war, so many young men and women died; beloved sons and daughters (War is not just about men – don’t forget the women who served, as nurses and drivers, admin assistants and cooks, among other roles), husbands, wives and lovers lost, brothers and sisters, friends, mothers and fathers.

In the Great War alone (later to be called World War One) there were over 35 million casualties, both military and civilian, with over 15 million confirmed dead. From a country with a population of fewer than five million,  416,809 Australians enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. (Source – Australian War Memorial). It was a huge loss to our country. Today, on ANZAC Day, we remember them, and all they and their families sacrificed for us.

We honour you.

We acknowledge you.

We thank you.

Image from defence.gov.au

In memory of Corporal William Harold Heppell, 2/13 Battalion Infantry 1939 -1945, beloved brother of my Nana, Joyce, and of her husband, my grandfather, Corporal Donald Francis Cody, RAAF, 1914 -1983.  Rest in Peace. Forever in our hearts.

Eric Bogle penned and recorded this song (below) in 1971.  It describes the horrors, futility and loss of war, from the viewpoint of a young Australian Rover (Outback horseman) who fights at Gallipoli, and whose life is forever changed by injury.  As an old man, he looks back and wonders if anyone will still remember, if anyone will still march when all the old men are gone. It brings a lump to my throat every time I listen to it.

And the truth is, nearly 100 years on, we DO remember, and we DO march. Not to glorify war, but to remember the sacrifice, the bravery, the horror and the loss, the great personal and national cost. Lest we forget…

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda ~ Eric Bogle

Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said, “Son,
It’s time you stop ramblin’, there’s work to be done.”
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.

And the band played “Waltzing Matilda,”
As the ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
We sailed off for Gallipoli.
And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water;
And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk, he was waitin’, he primed himself well;
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell —
And in five minutes flat, he’d blown us all to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played “Waltzing Matilda,”
When we stopped to bury our slain,
Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead —
Never knew there was worse things than dying.
For I’ll go no more “Waltzing Matilda,”
All around the green bush far and free —
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more “Waltzing Matilda” for me.

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.
But the band played “Waltzing Matilda,”
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
Then they turned all their faces away.

And so now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask “What are they marching for?”
And I ask meself the same question.
But the band plays “Waltzing Matilda,”
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday, no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong,
Who’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?

18 thoughts on “Lest We Forget – ANZAC Day, 25 April 2012

  1. A beautiful post. It’s very good that we remember these things and the people who gave their lives for our security. I feel sad that we need military personnel at all, but that’s the way the world works and I’m very grateful that there are people willing to put their lives on the line for their countries. Hats off to your grandfather and your Nana’s brother, and to everyone away from home on duty today.

  2. My Father served in the army in WW2 and was posted in Papua New Guinea. He was a Captain and when he passed we had his “John Brown Belt” and the Australian Flag drapped over his casket. My Mum also served in the army in Queensland working with the Intelligence section working as secretary. I remember their wedding photo, Dad in his uniform and Mum in her wedding dress – looking so very young and excited about the start of their journey. In later life – in his 80’s Dad suffered terrible nightmares and was diagnosed with PTSD – there was no support for the men and women of those times to assist in helping them deal with the horrors of war. I feel my parents around me a lot and particularly Dad on this day – usually signified by the smell of cigarette smoke – just Dad letting me know that he is around me. Sending love and blessings to all those who served and for their loved ones and familes here honouring them this day always. xxx

  3. It wasn’t until I started working and talking with Veterans that I realized the true sacrifice that they made for us. It’s not that I ever disrespected them, I don’t think I gave it much thought (even though my father and uncles were in WW2.) Now I get tears in my eyes when I hear stories about vets and their families and how so many of them seem forgotten. I am so glad you have honored those who served in this post today.

  4. I cried for most of the morning. It’s such an emotional day for so many people. My Dad’s best friend (who’s like my other Dad) fought – really fought – in Vietnam, and last year he went back for the first time and spent a couple of weeks there helping to build an orphanage. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him, both in the war and then returning to such a place of horror. Beautiful post – thanks Nic xoxo

  5. A wonderful tribute,Nicole,thank’s as i had an uncle who died on a hospital ship on it’s way back to Australia,bombed by the Japanese in world war 2.He’s sister served as a nurse ,she came backed and lived until her death a few years ago.They will never be forgotten.

  6. This post touched my heart Nicole. It’s true I am not Australian, but I honor all the soldiers from all over the world, even those who are considered to be our enemies. They are human beings, fighting for their countries. I live in a country of war. I have lived war and have seen people and family die. We have been occupied by many troops from different countries, but this is NOT the soldiers faults, this is unfortunately politics, and its all about POWER. I respect all the soldiers, without any exceptions.

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