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Dawn Service

ANZAC Day

"Gallipoli tends to seem strange to outsiders, as it appears to be a celebration of Australia's greatest defeat, but in essence it is rather a commemoration of those who died serving Australia in battle, be it warranted or not." Answers.com

ANZAC day is Australia's finest example of leadership that it has shown the world. Although it is a military day, it is not used to demonstrate power, continue feuds, or glorify war. ANZAC Day is simply a time for Australians to remember the anguish of war, build bridges with past enemies, and praise the character of soldiers who did it tough, but showed great character in the face of adversity.

The human aspects of ANZAC day can be attributed to the fact that its symbolism originated with veterans themselves rather than politically motivated officialdom. On the 25th of April 1923 at Albany in Western Australia, the Reverend White led a party of friends in what was the first ever observance of an ANZAC Day dawn service. This date was the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing; a failed invasion of Turkey which cost the lives of 7600 Australians and was then evacuated. It wasn't until 1927 that the first official service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph.

Dawn is central to the ANZAC Day service as it was one of the most favoured times for an attack. As the half-light played tricks with the soldiers' eyes, they were awoken in the dark, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield, they were awake and alert. The fresh light instilled a sense of optimism for the new day tempered by the fear that it could be their last. For those who survived, it bequeathed memories of burying a mate along with the awareness that they would have to preserve the feelings of what they had lost. In one, it was both the beginning and the end.

Another central feature of the ANZAC Day service is a paragraph taken from the poem 'Ode for the Fallen':

" 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. "

The poem neither attributes right or wrong nor does it glorify war as the liberator of freedom. It simply articulates what the war meant to those who were involved in it.

For decades, families and young people were not welcome at these dawn services. The veterans were just too stoic to let their friends and families see their emotions. In recent times; however, friends have been invited to share in the experience. Descendants have also been encouraged to take part in marches wearing the war medals of deceased relatives. Arguably this was brought about due to necessity as the stars of the show had a habit of dying each year. This was leading to the very real prospect of crowds one day cheering on a lone man in a wheel chair, and then an empty street.

Another suggested change is to allow the Australians who had relatives that fought on the opposite side to take part wearing the war medals of their deceased ancestors. In 1998, eligible Turks in Australia were allowed to march for the first time. For the Turks, the march was the culmination of two decades of campaigning in the name of bringing the spirit of friendship out of the catastrophic loss of life. The Turks had to overcome opposition from the RSL who argued that anyone who shot at Diggers can not be part of the day. They then had to overcome opposition from Greek Australians who were hostile after centuries of conflict between the two nations. Finally, they had to overcome opposition from other Turks who were against marching alongside the Australian soldiers who had invaded their country.

The chief inspiration for the Turks was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, their first president and mastermind of the Turkish resistance in the Gallipoli campaign. In respect for those who fought and died on both sides, Ataturk said:

"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."

Allowing the Turks to take part was also keeping alive the traditions of the Diggers themselves; many of whom respected their enemy more than their commanding officers. A famous photograph revered in Turkey is that of a Digger giving water to a wounded Turk. Likewise, an unofficial truce was called by the men on both sides so that they could attend to their dead. Finally, when the Diggers were evacuating, some left bottles of whiskey, and letters for their Turkish combatants. Although Muslims can't drink alcohol and the Turks probably couldn't read English, they were nice gestures nevertheless.

Such actions made reconciliation possible almost as soon as the war ended. These reconciliation was seen with a photograph of a Turkish officer, Major Zeki Bey, posing for the camera alongside some ANZACs after the end of hostilities. In the future, it is hoped that ANZAC day will be used to build stronger bridges with Japan, another of Australia's war time enemies. Both China and Korea reserve an extreme hatred of the Japanese based upon stories of atrocities they are told in school. There are also a few Australians who are bitter about what happened to their ancestors. ANZAC day provides a stage for Australia to set an example to the rest of Asia by again showing that some good can come out of something so bad.

A fine example was previously shown by Australian soldiers in World War II. On the 31st May, 1942, three midget submarines attacked Sydney. Two were destroyed and the bodies of the Japanese submariners were recovered. Japanese ensigns were then draped over the coffins and three volleys were fired into the air by a naval saluting party. The bodies were then cremated and the ashes sent back to their homeland. Teiiji Yamaki, a surviving submariner from the midget program subsequently said:

"I am extremely grateful for what the Australians did. It would have been unthinkable in Japan at the time to do that for an enemy country."

While Anzac Day has very wide support in Australia, it is not universal. Some Australians have interpreted the date of Anzac Day to mean a celebration of Gallipoli, which they feel should be forgotten. One such Australian was Paul Keating, who declared in 2008 that Gallipoli was a useless battle that was fought for British interests. Keating also declared that he had never set foot in Gallipoli and never would. According to Keating:

"Dragged into service by the imperial government in an ill-conceived and poorly executed campaign, we were cut to ribbons and dispatched -- and none of it in the defence of Australia."

Other critics have included historians Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson. In 2002, the historians ran a campaign in the Sydney Morning Herald in which they criticised the Australian celebration of Gallipoli on the grounds it,

"excludes more than half the population: women, indigenous people and most ethnic groups."

The historians also stated that Australians today should have the maturity to realise that Gallipoli was a battle fought in vain, which suggested that they misunderstood the origins and meaning of Anzac Day.

ANZAC Spirit

As a volunteer army representing a nation tainted with a Convict stigma, the Australian soldier developed a unique set of characteristics that became known as the Anzac spirit. As New Zealand soldiers fought alongside Australians, they shared the attributes of the spirit.

The diggers' motivation to fight

Chester Wilmot "Tobruk 1941" Angus & Robertson, Sydney

'Italians with whom I talked found it hard to believe that the Australians were volunteers. They understood their own position. They had been sent to Libya to win glory for Mussolini. They presumed that the Tommies were there merely to defend British Imperial interests. But why were the Australian volunteers there? The ordinary Digger would have found it difficult to tell you. If you ever persuaded him to talk he would not have spoken of defending freedom, or removing injustice, or of saving the Empire. He might have said, "Oh, I wanted a bit of fun;" or else, "I dunno, I was fed up with my job;" or perhaps, "well, all my cobbers were joining up and so I went along too." Not much more than that. These would not be the real answers. Men may join up for fun or for a change, but if these are the only reasons, they would not go into action and fight through with bayonet and grenade when machine gun bullets kick the dust around their feet and they see the man next to them go down. If you could get the ordinary Australian to say what he really feels, it might be something like this: "Well, I came away because I believe in a fair go and I wanted to be with my mates; because I like being able to say to a copper, 'That's all right, copper, you got nothin' on me;' because I want to say what I like when we're having a beer at the pub; because I want to do what I like with the few quid I've got in the bank; and because women and kids are being bombed in London and shot in Prague, and someday this might happen at home if we don't do something about it." It was because they felt the battle was being fought for things like these, which mattered directly to them, that the Mallee farmer and the Kalgoorlie miner, the Bendigo bank clerk and the Sydney solicitor made the soldiers of Tobruk just as they made those at Gallipoli.'

"I didn't join out of patriotism. I was looking for what I'd lost; the feeling of a lot of mates all working together, relying on each other, for some other reason that making dividends for the shareholders."

Digger defiance and conviction

Chester Wilmot "Tobruk 1941" Angus & Robertson, Sydney

'Berlin Radio made a fatal mistake in trying to jibe and scare the Australian soldier into surrender. The longer the odds Lord Haw Haw offered against the Diggers chance of getting out, the more heavily the digger backed himself. He and his father before him had gambled on the outcome of a draught or a strike. They had defied bullying of man and nature and had gambled with their livelihood. It seemed a small step from this to gamble now with their lives. The odds were long; the fight would be hard, but they knew what was at stake.'

Larrikin sheep thieves

Chester Wilmot "Tobruk 1941" Angus & Robertson, Sydney

"Larry the lamb" was the jealously guarded mascot of the British ackack battery. Every night his masters placed a sentry to protect him from predatory Australians."

German assessment of the diggers

Chester Wilmot "Tobruk 1941" Angus & Robertson, SydneyFrom Major Ballerstedt, C.O. 2nd Battalion, 115th Motorized Infantry Regiment:

" The Australian, who are the men our troops have had opposite them so far, are extraordinarily tough fighters. The German is more active in the attack, but the enemy stakes his life in the defence and fights to the last with extreme cunning."

Captured German officer:

" I cannot understand you Australians. In Poland, France and Belgium once the tanks got through the soldiers took it for granted they were beaten. But you are like demons. The tanks break through and your infantry keeps fighting"

·English assessment of the Diggers

"there was hardly the slightest pretension to being gentlemen or civilised. Their faces were coarse and hard bitten. .....the Australian manner..... was blatant and self assertive and the Australian voice likewise. I am afraid I never wish to meet any more Australians- there seems to much of the Botany Bay strain in them! My servant too complains that they are a rough lot." " a disgrace to the Army, nothing but an undisciplined mob... and we are all confined to Barracks through them. They are all mad drunk having their Easter holidays but we dare not do as they do, they do as they like." "The Australians rose to the occasion. Not waiting for orders, or for the boats to reach the beach, they sprang into the sea....Then this race of athletes proceeded to scale the cliffs." "In the later stages of the last war, the Australian Corps was by general recognition perhaps the most effectively operated of any; it certainly played a leading role in our victorious offensive." " It is this meticulous clinging to our obsolete, undemocratic standard of what they are pleased to call discipline-saluting etc- that has made the English army so rotten that it has never achieved one successful offensive in the whole course of the war."

"But Churchill was unequivocal on this subject - he told his physician Lord Moran that Australians were of "poor stock". Presumably he was referring to the so-called convict stain."

Egyptian assessment of the Diggers

"Not since pre-historic stone ages has such a naked army been seen in civilised warfare as the Australian army corps fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. They display an utter abhorrence for superflous clothing. They are famous throughout Europe for their hard-fighting, hard-swearing and nakedness, even to a sense of indecency."

Australian attitudes to the English

" With the climate went petty annoyances such as the refusal to accept Australian money, and more serious ones, such as the British class system, with which they had no patience. Thus privates or NCOs insisted on visiting restaurants where the officers ate. The English regarded this as a sign of Australian arrogance; the Australians as English snobbery. They were quick to resent what they suspected was condescending, or patronising behaviour, and demanded to be treated as equals. They detested the English distinction between officers and men." " They had been taught by their parents, or had otherwise acquired, a strong dislike of the speech, manners and attitudes of the higher British classes. It was possibly the latter's nonchalant sense of superiority, combined with a lack of sensitivity to the suffering of the troops, that infuriated the ANZACS most. " " The road is a continuous stream of detached parties of Tommies .. who have become 'lost. stolen, or strayed'... Seems to me that whole damn lot are more intent on getting back than getting up. They'll make a good advance guard - for the civilian retreat. "

General Monash

:"not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline"

Digger Carl Jannsen, Mena Camp, Egypt, 1914

"A large proportion of these wasters are not Australians, but Emigrants from England. There are some very bad Australians I admit, but their badness is of a different type. The Australians' chief weakness has been drink and violence but the Englishman is a dirty sneak and in some cases a deserter from the Imperial Service. When I say dirty I mean slovenly and filthy..."

Keith Murdoch (The father of Rupert Murdoch)

The British troops were suffering from 'an atrophy of mind and body that is appalling... The physique of those at Suvla is not to be compared with the Australians. Nor, indeed, is their intelligence... They are merely a lot of childlike youths without strength to endure or brains to improve their condition... After the first day at Suvla an order had to be issued to officers to shoot without mercy and soldiers who lagged behind or loitered in an advance... [By contrast] It is stirring to see them [the Australians].. they have the noble faces of men who have endured. Oh, if you could picture Anzac as I have seen it, you would find that to be an Australian is the greatest privilege the world has to offer' -

Sgt. Hookway, his Section Sergeant description of John Simpson

"a big man and very muscular, though aged only 22 and was selected at once as a stretcher bearer... he was too human to be a parade ground soldier, and strongly disliked discipline; though not lazy he shirked the drudgery of ‘forming fours’, and other irksome military tasks"

Kenneth Slessor Beach Burial

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam. Between the sob and clubbing of gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness; And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin - "Unknown seaman" - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips, Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as ememies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

The Last to Leave - Leon Gellert

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, "What of these?' and "What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened - all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.

 

 

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""Shouting", or rather its meaning, is peculiarly Australian. The shortest and most comprehensive definition of "shouting" is to pay for the drink drunk by others." Drinking

"Australia has been hailed as a saviour of our soi-disant movie industry. So it could be, irrespective of its box office earnings, if it leads to recognition that we don't have a film industry, despite expenditure over 20 years of $1.5billion in subsidies and perhaps another half billion in tax concessions." Movies

"Australians are very difficult to impress; even if you do manage to impress them, they may not openly admit it." Social Rules

"a confused mix of landscape, animals, and Aboriginal culture, with a kind of Bible overtone." Painting

"A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop" Wisdom

"Gallipoli tends to seem strange to outsiders, as it appears to be a celebration of Australia's greatest defeat, but in essence it is rather a commemoration of those who died serving Australia in battle, be it warranted or not." Anzac

“We must be the only country in the world that marks its national day not by celebrating its identity, but by questioning it.” Australia Day

"He declared, confidently, that an immense number of women were dying for his diminutive highness, but became terribly angry, when an ugly, red-nosed publican with a hump-back, pretended to recognize him as an organ grinder strolling about with a monkey." Egalitarianism

"Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come
" Poetry