Able Seaman William Allan ... the last World War 1 digger to die. Photo: AP
Last night we went out for dinner with friends, on the way home (I was the unusually, designated driver) Struth Ruth, year six teacher, mentioned that one of her student's fathers had given a talk to her class about ANZAC, war, being a soldier and everything, he had served in Iraq as part of Australia's "Coalition of the Willing" and like so many of his ilk was proud to do so whether he believed in the conflict or not. He is a true solider. He arrived in his fatigues which way impressed the younglings and spoke about war. How it was bad, how he would rather not participate in it but how soldiers also assist in peace keeping and reconstruction. Also you didn't need to agree with your peers in order to work as a team. Many of the messages he passed on to these young minds were about teamship, camaradarie, watching out for each other, obligation and maintaining peace.
I didn't think much of it in the car on the way home but it's preyed on my mind today as every TV station is paying tribute not just to the first world war vets, to whom this day was originally dedicated and sadly no Australian remains, but to current servicemen and women, the vast majority of whom are keeping peace, provisioning the unfortunate, and doing a job that frankly we - the often critical - are not prepared to do and should sleep soundly at night knowing that we're not physically involved.
ANZAC Day is probably Australia's most important, and certainly our most solemn, national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War and despite the bravery of it's troops a totally botched exercise thanks to British (and Australian) leaders safely tucked in their London bunkers playing shuffleboard with young people's lives.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took in that name endures to this day. Whilst the massacre at Gallipoli dominates the agenda and I did watch the Dawn Service from Lone Pine this morning, which was incredibly moving as most combatants were between 19 and 22 years of age, I couldn't help thinking what is it all for.
ANZACS were also (little publicised however) represented in Egypt, Greece, North Africa, Europe and of course Turkey. Today, the Turks, Australians and New Zealanders commemorate the Gallipoli event together and with the deepest respect for each other and the huge unnecessary loss of life.
Since the year dot, our societies, European, Asian, African, American - have been defined by war. It's part of the human condition, it maintains boundaries, it preserves sanctity, it subjugates the weak and empowers the strong but as a woman, and I really believe this, I find it the most stupid of resolutions to conflict and yet the most enduring.
God bless those who perished, thank God for those who serve, God save those who are currently deployed but sadly, we are still remembering the death and destruction this idiotic concept has caused families, governments, countries for thousands of years . . .
Meanwhile, my pampered menial has gone out on an ANZAC day pissup, admitting he has no idea what 'two up' is . . . just a public holiday, no big deal, an excuse to get maggoted . . so much for Lest We Forget . . . sadly we do! Whoever said "History does not repeat itself, man always does" was a absolutely right!
Dedicated to Aaaaaaaaaandy Carter, Lofty and Timbo - Thank you boys.