The spirit of the ANZACs began in the trenches of WWI. The day to acknowledge, recognise and show our thanks to the ANZACs for their sacrifice and contribution is April 25. It was on that date one hundred years ago Australian and New Zealand troops, led by the British, made the fateful landing at Gallipoli.
Drew’s Great-Uncle Keith was sent to Turkey and landed not at Gallipoli but one of three landing locations. Almost 750 Australian men died on the first day of landing at Gallipoli. Keith, sent to a different location, managed to survive however, injured from machine gun fire and with shrapnel through many parts of his body, he lay on the rocky shore pretending to be dead while Turks picked over the bodies of the allied soldiers stealing watches, signet rings and other items of value.
The assault on Gallipoli lasted eight and a half months and ultimately failed. By the time of the retreat over a third of those sent to fight were casualties. Almost 9,000 Australian men were killed which was an enormous loss for a young country with a relatively small population. One Australian soldier said, ‘It was the absurd sacrifice of young men by old men sitting in stuffed chairs in London’.
Against the odds, Uncle Keith survived WWI but came home with permanent injuries.
ANZAC Day 2015 marked the 100th Anniversary of that fateful landing at Gallipoli. As a family, we went to Martin Place to be part of thousands lining the streets to honour those in the march. The march not only acknowledged the contribution and sacrifice of those who were called to duty in WWI, but all those who have served in both times of conflict and in humanitarian duties.
I have previously written about my grandfather’s contribution and sacrifice to WWII with being a pilot flying over Germany where he was eventually shot-down over Belgium, captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp.
When my grandfather returned to New Zealand he never bothered to collect his medals. Over the past year and through a lengthy, time-consuming and full-of-red-tape procedure, my father has managed to acquire his father’s medals. He received them a few weeks ago, just in time for ANZAC Day.
My father marched in his father’s place in Bomber Command. We, along with thousands of others, lined the streets on what was, (by sharp contrast from the cyclone a few days earlier), a beautifully warm and sunny day.
We watched the procession from start to finish and there was a wonderful spirit amongst the bystanders of respect, admiration and gratitude. The veterans proudly marched and it was wonderful to see how even with the passing of time, the learned skill of marching was never to be forgotten.
All those marching had dressed up in what looked like their ‘Sunday best’ with polished shoes, pressed shirts and glistening medals. What a great occasion for them.
My father was one of the last to march. He took his role very seriously and honoured his father who sadly never got to wear his own medals.
After the parade we caught up and had a restful and quiet lunch in a restaurant. As we walked back to where we had parked the car, it was lovely to pass by so many people wearing their own or their father’s medals and others with poppies or sprigs of rosemary or both.
Now about the weather…The good weather didn’t last and shortly after we arrived home there was a hailstorm. I have never before experienced a cyclone and a hailstorm in the same week. This image was taken by my brother-in-law who is staying in the Blue Mountains. He went to the shops and became caught up in ‘Iceland’.