I am pleased to offer this guest post from TB: My ANZAC.
I could try and wax lyrical about the Aussie Spirit of Anzac and the professionalism of our ADF members (for they truly are) . . . but my authoring capabilities are fairly limited to my own experiences and thoughts.
Anzac Day is, I believe, many things to many people and in fact has become Australia’s de facto Remembrance Day (11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) .
A few still seem think that it’s a sabre rattling exercise – far from it, most soldiers I know/knew aren’t all that keen about being shot at! (Unfortunately, free speech doesn’t actually come for free).
Despite the awful mess at ADFA this year, that, I believe, should not taint the professional service of hundreds of thousands of military personnel past, present and future. They are, after all, human, just like the other 99.8% of the Australian population – in round figures the ADF is about 50000 out of 22 million.
I didn’t want to be a soldier and I haven’t been in combat . . . but I’ve known a few who have.
Both my grandfathers served in WWI. One served in France and was gassed but survived.
My parents served in WWII, Mum on anti aircraft batteries during the London Blitz and my Dad in the Royal Navy on Atlantic convoys (North and South) as a signalman. My mother’s sister also served in the ATS and two of my uncles in the Navy.
Post WWII, two more uncles served in Germany as National Servicemen, one in the air force and the other in the army. Another uncle, a professional, served as a WO during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya in the 1950’s.
In 1961 we emigrated to Australia and in 1969 I was called up for National Service . . . I never left Australia but two of my training platoon mates never returned from Vietnam . . . our training platoon was unique in that we had a volunteer with us – an Aboriginal . . . the National Service Act didn’t apply to Aboriginals. (I became an Australian Citizen some years after my Army Discharge).
My son served in the ADF for over 12 years, enlisting as an army apprentice, he was attached to a number of units and was eventually accepted into the Paratroop Regiment, 3RAR. He was deployed to Bougainville and Timor, where he was seconded to the UN – 11 months in Timor with two days leave! (His wife and two year old son eventually came from Townsville to live with us for six months).
My first “real” Anzac Day was at Bulimba in Brisbane … I was part of the Honour Guard provided by 1 Base Workshop . . . a dozen diggers in polyesters and shiny boots lugging an SLR rifle about . . . commanded by a very nervous 1st Lieutenant (pronounced “left-tenant” for those who watch American movies). Then back to the Bulimba RSL for a beer or two and a chat with the old diggers there. Very dim memories!
I avoided Anzac Day Parades for nearly thirty years after I left the Army. (Nothing to do with me – I was just another Nasho).
But . . . I hadn’t been speaking to my parents for a number of years and Dad asked my son if I’d go to the local Dawn Service – I did – and when the wreaths were laid, a little girl, eight or nine years old, slowly wended her way through the crowd, clutching a small, wilted, bunch of yellow flowers and laid it gently amongst the poppies. I’ve never missed a Dawn Service since.
My son and I are both ex-members of the Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (RAEME).
We’ll attend the local Dawn Parade with my 13 yo grandson (who proudly wears his great grandma’s WWII medals, my son his own and his grandad’s). We’ll have our own Gunfire Breakfast on the seafront and pour three tots of rum – one for me, one for my son and one for my father who passed away nine years ago – a small ritual, that we began in Dad’s RSL, the year he died.
And then into the city by train at 10 am to meet up with the RAEME contingent.
One of us a Nasho soldier and one a professional but we’ll march, side by side, father and son, through Brisbane (something else that was never on my “bucket list”), to remember our colleagues and their families – NEVER forget the ADF families and the support they give our troops and the hardships they suffer while loved ones are away.
I have never believed in the “reasons” for the wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan but I will always support the diggers, air force and navy personnel that have had to fight them.
Even our former enemies, and now friends, understand and remember.
I saw this for the first time (I know it’s been around for a long time!) at Anzac Cove last year . . . carved into a massive stone.
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.
You are now living 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 faraway 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.
Written by Kemal Ataturk, the Commander of the Turkish 19th Division during the Gallipoli Campaign and the first President of the Turkish Republic from 1924-1938. Ataturk must have been an exceptional person.
Ironically, last year, we were in Nurnberg on Anzac Day.
Every generation of my family has served in some capacity in international conflict. I sincerely hope that my son was the last.
From a Nasho digger . . . thank you to all who have served before me, with me and serve now . . . and thank you to all the people who support us all . . . the living and the fallen . . . on Anzac Day.
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.
“For the Fallen” – Laurence Binyon – Poems of the Great War (1914)