Friday, April 25, 2008

Lest We Forget and Lets Hope We Remember

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.


Thriftcriminal said...

Yeah, my grandfather was in Burma during WW2. It certainly marked him, in his final years he had many nightmares. He remembered his training in Kenya with fondness though, stories of his comrades making drinking glasses from beer bottles by filling them with water and sticking in a hot poker (glass fractures around the water line) and getting bitten on the bum by a tarantula hiding under the edge of the field toilet. War seems immensely lazy, if you have an issue with the leader of the country, put in the effort and take him/her out, not their citizens.

ian said...

Boys of the 10th (Irish) Division were at Gallipoli - First battalion of the Dublin Fusiliers and First battalion of the Munsters lost so many men on 25th April and the following days that by 30th April they were combined to form the 'Dubsters'- the battalions were reformed when reinforcements arrived.

Baino said...

Ian: That is so, so true. We (Australians) forget that we were part of a huge allied contingent which also suffered enormous loss. It is indeed a sad day over a stupid war and driven by even more idiotic men. Fucking fighting over everything really gives me the shits. It's boyish, immature and resolves nothing.

Northern Ireland is at peace, Croatia is a holiday destination as is Cambodia and Vietnam . . we've all forgiven the Germans and Japan is the second larges economy in the world What the hell was it all for? When will we learn that this is not Elizabethan England culling the Spanish Armarda but just silly boys with deadly sticks and it has to stop. Sorry, bit emotional about all of this tonight. I'm with Thrifty, bring down the regime and save the people.

You want names? Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong Ill,Than Shwe, Musa Hilal, Pervez Musharraf, and I'm sure there are more that suit world powers to remain in office but need to be eradicated like the rats in my attic.

Baino said...

Thrifty: on a lighter note, I have a photo of my father in Hindustan. It wasn't until I was about 19 I realised that it would have been impossible. He never went there. His battalion pinched a sign and stuck it on some northern line station in Lancashire and all had their photos taken in full regalia with the sign behind them . . it was 1946!

One must always be cautious of field toilets which is why I won't poo in a hole! Sorry Thommo but Patagonia is only a goer if I can have a flushing loo!

Kath Lockett said...

Great post, Baino.

Eight year old Sapphire has been very keen to find out about ANZAC day - we found her a rather good 'education' section in the paper on it which she read avidly, but I just couldn't get up at 6am for a dawn service today. We did sit through the Collingwood and Essendon AFL game, so there was a tiny bit of remembrance in that...?