It is ANZAC Day, 2010.
For internationals who do not know what ANZAC is about, a few notes in explanation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallipoli_Campaign ANZAC is an acronym for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, the combined forces who sailed away from their homelands in the early days of WWI to fight “for King and Country”. ANZAC Day is a day of commemoration for New Zealnders and Australians when services are held to remember all of those who served in all of the armed conflicts our nations have been involved in. The Day is always 25th April being the same day as that in 1915 when ANZAC troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli in Turkey. The Australians landed at Suvla Bay while the Kiwis were put ashore at what has become known as ANZAC Cove. Due largely to poor management of the campaign from Whitehall in far off London (our soldiers were, of course under the command of British politicians and generals) and in no way because of lack of commitment or will by the ANZACs, in January those who remained were taken off the beaches and the Gallipoli campaign was over, but only after over 8700 Diggers (Ozzie soldiers) and 2721 Kiwis (roughly a quarter of the total Kiwi contingent) had died (from a total Allied combined death toll of over 44,000). (The Turkish losses were over 80,000!!! and the Gallipoli campaign became a defining moment in Turkish history.)
This ANZAC Day is particularly special for me since my youngest child is attending the services being held at Gallipoli. I know it is going to be a very emotional time for her and will create memories she will cherish for ever. I know she will say some quiet words for her Grand Uncle Norman Murray who was killed at Crete in WW2. She will also say some words for her brother who is a serving soldier back home in New Zealand but who is shortly to return to Afghanistan as part of the next rotation of NZ forces working in Bamian Provence (he was attached to ‘The Unit’ operating out of Bagram in 2008). She will say a word or two for her cousin who is with the current rotation in Bamian.
I asked her to take these words to Gallipoli, the inscription on the Attaturk Memorial back home in Wellington. They are the words of Kemal Ataturk, commander of Turkish forces and later President of Turkey. “Those heroes who 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 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 bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”
She will have her own private thoughts, and I am sure she will also think about those whose spirits will permeate the memorial grounds and surrounding hills, and will come away a different person.
The New Zealand National Memorial (left) and the Ataturk Memorial, Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli.