Have you heard of Anzac Day?
The one day of the year
Today the 25 April is ANZAC DAY in Australia. The original Anzacs were the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who stormed the beaches at Gallipoli in Turkey.
Who were the Anzacs?
But Anzac Day remembers all those soldiers, sailors and airmen who have fought to keep our country free. It’s their special day. None of the old Diggers* are left from World War One, and only a handful from World War Two. Even the Vietnam Vets are getting a bit old in the tooth.
The Dawn Service
The day starts with Dawn Services all over the country. Huge crowds gather at the cenotaph in all the capital cities. Every small town has an Anzac memorial where a service is held at dawn.
An integral part of these services is the bugler playing the Last Post followed by Reveille. Every time I’ve attended a Dawn Service, I’ve always shed tears for the young men — boys really — who’ve died for our country.
Then comes the Anzac Day parade: marching bands, school children, and veterans from every war proudly wearing their medals on their chests. Crowds line the streets waving Australian flags as the parade passes by.
Each group has their own banner identifying them: Australian War Widows, Legacy, Medical Corps as well as currently serving Army, Navy and Air Force. Each section of a battalion who served in the wars march together until they can no longer walk. Jeeps take over to transport them through the waving crowds. They are our heroes.
My family history
My dad was part of the 2/12th battalion who fought against the Japanese in New Guinea and Indonesia in the Second World War. We heard of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who helped them on the Kokoda Track, but nothing else. He had a Japanese samurai sword amongst his possessions but we never asked him how he came by it.
We know he was badly injured by shrapnel and never walked upright again. He was a tough old bastard but never complained. We learned such things as There’s no such word as can’t from him.
Last week, I visited the memorabilia display under the Eternal Flame in Anzac Square and placed a poppy in the wall under the 2/12th plaque in his memory.
The One Day of the Year
Anzac Day is the one day of the year when veterans gather together at RSL* clubs and play two-up, legally. They drink beer and tell war stories that they never tell their families.
Many of the old Diggers are now represented in the parade by their grandchildren and great grandchildren proudly wearing their grandad’s medals.
I marched with my classmates every year during high school. My own children marched with their school marching band. Now we sit at home watching the parade on television, and remembering how lucky we are.
As a mark of respect, all shops are closed until noon. It’s the One Day of the Year. Check out The One Day of the Year by Alan Seymour.
Digger: The term ‘digger’ is generally accepted as slang for an Australian soldier, and the myth is that it came from Australians digging trenches at Gallipoli.
RSL: The Returned and Services League was the RSSAILA (Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia) until the 1960s.
I have spent a large part of my life rearing children. Now I enjoy travel and writing more than anything else. I like to focus my energy on collecting experiences as opposed to things and would rather spend my money on an adventurous holiday to a foreign land than on a fancy new car.