“They march to honour sacrifice…”
April 25th is ANZAC Day.
It’s the day that unites Australians and New Zealanders in remembering the sacrifices made to preserve our freedom and way of life by all Australian and New Zealander soldiers and their allies, not just those who died at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
Last year, on ANZAC Day, I wrote this poem. I published it on my blog then, and it appears in my book, ‘Nova’.
I wanted to share it with you again today, because it’s so important that we remember exactly what our rights and freedoms as Australians have cost. They didn’t just happen. Time and time again, young men and women have served our nation by fighting for the freedoms and values that we hold so dear. Many have lost their lives. Many have been injured – and not just physically. And many families still grieve for those who never returned.
‘Remembrance’ does not tell the whole story. It’s a glimpse of men and women, young and old, military and civilian, gathered together on ANZAC Day to pay tribute to those who served, and particularly those who gave their lives for their country.
I can never repay that debt. I am not expected to.
But I can pay my own tribute.
Lest We Forget.
Hundreds of people attended the ANZAC Day memorial service at the cenotaph in Cobden for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. There were thousands at the dawn service in Warrnambool and hundreds of thousands at the dawn service in Melbourne. The grey clouds and steady rain did not deter them: instead, it seemed appropriate for a time of sombre reflection.
In Cobden, the path to the cenotaph was lined by a guard of honour consisting of our Scouts and Girl Guides.
A lone piper played in tribute to the fallen and in honour of the returned servicemen who were present.
Hearing the New Zealand ode spoken in Maori was very powerful, even though most people there couldn’t understand a word of it. The speaker’s love for his country and thankfulness for the ANZACs and all those who served after them was evident through the emotion in his voice.
The Australian ode was spoken equally powerfully.It was impossible to remain unmoved by all the feelings of love for my country, gratitude for those who have served and the freedoms we still have because of them, and sadness for the loss of life on both sides. I made no effort to hide several tears that spilled down my cheek when they played The Last Post and during the period of silent observance before they played the Reveille.
When they played the instrumental version of the Australian national anthem there was no invitation to sing, but half the crowd sang anyway. I would have loved it if everyone joined in, but I guess the “I’m not singing in public” sentiment is still strong among many people.
It was beautiful to meet a little boy, Euan, who was incredibly proud to be wearing his great-grandfather’s war medals. I watched him stand attentively and proudly through the whole ceremony. He had obviously been made aware by his parents of the importance of the medals and the reason for the commemoration, because he took it all very seriously.
I am so thankful that remembering those who served their country and their fellow Australians, New Zealanders and allies, often at the expense of their own lives, is so important to so many.
“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.”
Lest We Forget.
My great-uncle, H.C.E MacAuley, was a member of 6 Div AASC. He was captured in Kalamata in April of 1941, and stayed undercover and on the run for more than twelve months during which he tried to make it to the Turkish border. He was recaptured in June 1942 and remained a POW until liberation by the 101 Airborne.
I was privileged to know this man as my beloved Uncle Charlie.
He had a great sense of humour and always made time for me. I used to go and visit him and my Auntie Marion on Saturday afternoons with my Grandpa. We would watch the cricket, football or other sports and talk and joke and laugh.
This was where I learned to love watching sports, where I the learned the rules of the different games, where I started to learn about politics, and where I first learned about the war.
Uncle Charlie would tell me stories about things he and his fellow soldiers did, but as I got older I realised how gentle and careful he had been with my young heart and mind.
He told me of events and characters of the war, but he never revealed to me its horror or brutality. He always told me how lucky I was to be Australian and explained that men like him fought so that we could remain the lucky country.
We cannot underestimate the degree to which we owe those soldiers our social and cultural freedom.
We cannot allow our society or our nation to forget the reasons for each war in which we have participated or the outcomes and consequences that each delivered.
I am proud of Uncle Charlie and every other person who has risked or sacrificed their own freedom to preserve that of their countrymen and of the oppressed.
I am thankful for their service.
I am thankful for my country and our prosperity and way of life compared to many other countries.
This ANZAC Day, I encourage everyone to remember and reflect on the freedoms the Australian military services have won on our behalf, and what it cost many of those men and women to achieve them.
Lest we forget.