How sleep the brave, who sink to rest,
By all their country’s wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow’d mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy’s feet have ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is rung,
There Honour comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there.
~William Collins, 1721 – 1759 English poet.
This year Easter Monday coincides with ANZAC Day a public holiday both here in New Zealand and in Australia.
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year. The day is in honor of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I.
The Gallipoli Campaign, or the Battle of Gallipoli,took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War. In an attempt to secure a sea route to Russia through the Black Sea, a joint British and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople/Istanbul. Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of this Allied Expedition. The Allied force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April and met fierce resistance from the Turkish Army. The Expedition failed.
What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate. The campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The casualties included 21,255 from the UK, an estimated 10,000 from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from British India.
News of the landing at Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war. While the Gallipoli campaign undoubtedly failed in its military objectives of capturing Istanbul and knocking Turkey out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand troops’ actions during the campaign bequeathed a powerful legacy – the ANZAC legend. This was the first time that the Australian and NZ armies fought an enemy representing their own countries. This gave each country a new found sense of national identity.
In 1934 Ataturk, who had fought in the war and subsequently became the first President of Turkey, sent the following message via his Home Affairs Minister to the first visitors to Gallipoli from New Zealand, Australia and England:
“Those heroes that shed their blood, and lost their lives …
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side,
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries …
Wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land, they have
Become our sons as well.”
A memorial containing those words was unveiled by the Australian Veteran Affairs Minister on 25 April 1985. The cove has been named ANZAC Cove by the Turks.e from Australia, New Zealand and England in 1934.via his Home Affairs Minister to the first visitors who had come from Australia, New Zealand and England in 1934.via his Home Affairs Minister to And now to 2011. ANZAC Day is commemorated/celebrated by New Zealanders and Australians. It has changed to be a day of remembrance for all those who lost their lives in a war. The day begins with a Dawn Ceremony of Remembrance at 5.45 am. Here in Wellington it is at The Cenotaph. Each year scores of people march to the Cenotaph and hundreds of people gather to mark this day. It is surprising to note the number of young people who attend. Some of these march wearing their grandparents’ medals, others (like my grandsons) just stand in silence and remember.
Later in the day there are services of remembrance at many churches in and around the city. And there is a Dawn to Dusk Vigil mounted at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in the National War Museum.
Shops must remain closed until 1pm. So you see, ANZAC day has more meaning for us than Remembrance Day or Veterans Day. This is our day to honor our dead. Poppies are sold by the Returned Services Associations and are worn by most people as a sign of respect.
So while we are celebrating Easter here, we are also commemorating the men and women who have given their lives for their countries.
Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’ – the fourth verse of which is so familar to us today was quoted by Sir Winston Churchill, 1874 – 1965, British statesman and politician, Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War:
“They shall grow not 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.”
And just because Rupert Brooke is a favorite of mine, and I can’t resist this poem.
“If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
that is forever England. There shall be
in that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
a dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
a body of England’s breathing English air,
washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.”