Today is Anzac Day. April 25. To me, Anzac Day conjures up vivid images of my university time in Auckland, when on this day each year my friends and I would get up in the dark, and walk through the Domain to the Auckland War Memorial (by the Museum). We would gather in small groups, whispering, and waiting for the first rays of light, and the emotional moving sound of a solitary bagpipe, that indicated the start of the ceremony. Most people were well wrapped up against the cold, but all would be wearing a red paper poppy somewhere on their jackets, to mark the day. Wreaths, decorated with poppies, would be laid around the memorial, and returned servicemen decorated with medals would be an intrinsic part of the ceremony, many often in wheelchairs.
In this way, thousands of New Zealanders and Australians in New Zealand, Australia and all around the world today attended dawn ceremonies and parades to commemorate Anzac Day. This public holiday (in both Australia and New Zealand) commemorates all New Zealanders and Australians killed in war and conflicts and also honours returned servicemen and women who have fought and protected our country.
The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps – the “Anzacs” – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders. Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians. Among the dead were around 2700 New Zealanders, about a sixth of those who served on Gallipoli, and over 5000 New Zealanders were wounded.
New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke at a dawn service at Gallipoli today. I found her speech very moving. You can see it here:
“LEST WE FORGET”