Lest We Forget
It can only be described as bizarre.
Most other nations celebrate their great military victories. Yet Australia and New Zealand, each year on the 25th of April, commemorate one of their greatest military debacles and defeats.
Ninety seven years ago, our lads landed on the wrong peninsula in an assault on Turkey. By mistake. Instead of a flat, undefended landing spot that they’d planned on, they landed at the foot of heavily fortified cliffs. And what ensued … was a massacre, as the fires of hell rained down on them.
Why is it that our two nations choose this day as the one to remember?
Here are the facts:
- They were never meant to land at Gallipoli – it was a navigational blunder
- 8,700 Australians and 2,600 New Zealanders lost their lives
- 19,500 Australians and 5,000 New Zealanders were wounded
- 25,000 Brits were killed, with almost 50,000 wounded
- 10,000 French were killed and around 16,000 were wounded
- Turkish casualties numbered around 87,000
- British generals threw our troops into old style assaults, without developing tactics to counter the newly invented machine guns
- Wave after wave of fresh-faced, young soldiers were needlessly mowed down
- When the allied forces finally withdrew, so brilliant was their tactical execution, so clever were their deceptions, that the Turks had no idea it was happening, until they were all … gone.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs) shaped the psyche of our two tiny nations. Those young soldiers – larikins many of them – came to define our respective national characters. When they left our shores in their ships to Europe, those young men could never have dreamed that in the fires of hell, a legend would be born.
The legend of the ANZACs.
And on this most solemn of days – ANZAC day – we remember not the outcome of war. Not any great victory. Not even the defeat.
We remember their blood trodden into the mud of a foreign land.
We remember their courage. We remember their mate-ship. We remember their sacrifice.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget