Thursday, April 26, 2012


These paper poppies are sold by the New Zealand RSA (Returned Services Association) (The services being the Army, Navy and Air Force) to raise money for the care of ex servicemen and women. On a proportional basis New Zealand has one of the highest numbers of service men and women killed during World War 2.

ANZAC Day had its beginnings after the first world war and especially the battle at Gallipoli in Turkey. ANZAC stands for 'Australian and New Zealand Armoured Corps'. We fought alongside Australians at Gallipoli and this was the genesis of what is called the 'Anzac Spirit' - facing adversity together with our now great Trans Tasman sporting rivals.

At various services nationwide today the tradition of playing the 'Last Post' on a lone bugle and the reading of these words from the poem 'For The Fallen' by Robert Binyon took place.

" They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. "

There is a growing interest in New Zealand amongst young people to participate these dawn services and there is a growing trend for young New Zealanders living or travelling in Europe to make a pilgrimage to ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey to participate in commemorative services there.

I think this growing interest is appropriate so long as it doesn't tend towards the glorification of war - the Hitler war was a war that had to be fought and won and we owe a debt to those who fought it on our behalf.


Ben said...

Amazing how knowledge of history is influenced by the country one is living in . Never knew about Gallipoli until I saw the 1981 film Gallipoli with Mel Gibson in 1989. Later on I discussed this subject with a Turk in Turkey, to illustrate the many viewpoints one can have. He told me the story of an Australian? soldier, wounded at Gallipoli and nursed bij Gallipoli locals. During his long illness he was comforted bij the songs of an imam. Many years later at old age dying in America he asked an imam at his bed side to sing the comforting songs from his youth.
My Turk co worker advised me to read the book, but I forgot the title and the writer.

Alden Smith said...

Yes!!! that is a very profound remark Ben. We ARE influenced by the country we are living in. NZ history is local but also very European Centric - mainly the United Kingdom, which is a rich source of news but also Television programmes and wider cultural influences - which is inevitable for two reasons - one, England is where the vast majority of our ancestor came from and second - they speak English!!.
Gallipoli is important to the NZ psyche for one main reason - it was the first time NZ fought a war overseas as an independent nation. It was the first "blooding"(horrible term I always think) of our young men in a foreign war and for some strange reason this event has become a rallying point for 'Nationhood'.
Which is all well and good I think and I understand how the sentiment has evolved. ---but the sad historical facts of the matter are that this battle was a shambles from the start - another of Winston Churchill’s ludicrous military ventures (Thank God for England and the rest of the world that the one thing he did do correctly was to lead England during WW2 - as a hugely successful war time prime minister ).
The facts are that this disaster at Gallipoli was an attempt to secure the straits of the Dadenelles by force meant that NZ, Australian and English troops invaded a sovereign nation (Turkey) and were thoroughly routed. It was a complete disaster from the start with our troops pinned down on beaches and given the task of climbing impossible cliffs to be able to engage in any meaningful way militarily - There were huge Allied casualities and many Turkish deaths.
To the credit of the Turks they have embraced the Allied War Dead buried in Turkey, on what is foreign soil for the invader, with words on war monuments and memorials that are truly wonderfully generous and hard to read without weeping - they (The Turks) state that our war dead are:

“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.”

I think these words are incredibly generous in the circumstances and from an Islamic nation that lost many of its own sons in this war, these are words that reach out with forgiveness.

Ben said...

Thanks Alden. Now I understand why everyone in NZ knows Gallipoli and hardly anyone in the NL.
My son, living now in Sydney, just started telling me about it. He had his first ANZAC day in Australia.

Alden Smith said...

Yes, that's the way it goes, just as no one in NZ knows much at all about Queens Day, Sinterklas etc and those streets full of orange!