THIS Thursday 25 April 2013 will mark 98 years since the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli in Turkey.
Anzac Day allows us to say our quiet and humble thank you to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It also affords us a chance to honour those who continue to serve our country in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The death of over 8,709 Australians and over 2,700 New Zealanders at Gallipoli is well known but we should not forget the more than 21,000 Britons that died as well as the French, Indians and the massive Turkish losses.
The legacy of Anzac isn’t counted in numbers, as terrible as they are. It’s about the courage under fire, the sacrifice they made and the mateship that was extended to each other in circumstances most of us could scarcely imagine.
Gallipoli was a conflict that helped define our identities as new nations. In the words of war correspondent Charles Bean who bore witness to the Gallipoli campaign ‘the consciousness of Australian manhood was born.’
There will be hundreds of services around Australia and New Zealand, in the humid climates of Papua New Guinea and the cold spring mornings of Villers-Bretonneux, Flanders field and Fromelles in Europe.
Many Australians living here in the UK, including I’m sure many readers of the Australian Times, continue to make the pilgrimage to these sacred places for Dawn Services.
There will of course be a Dawn Service here at the Australian War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in London. It will be my first as High Commissioner as it will be for my New Zealand counterpart Lockwood Smith.
It’s entirely appropriate that we celebrate Anzac day wherever we are in the world but it may surprise some to learn that Anzac Day actually has a long history in London.
On the first anniversary of Anzac Day in 1916 there was a service at Westminster Abbey attended by King George V, this service continues today.
Also on this day over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets of the city. There is a picture of this hanging up at the High Commission of the diggers marching passed Australia House.
A London newspaper reported on the march and dubbed the diggers “The Knights of Gallipoli”.
This week we will honour these ‘Knights of Gallipoli’ as well as those that have followed their legacy in the name of Anzac by having served and died wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations around the world.
Lest We Forget.