Anzac day

This morning I would like to talk about three aspects of ANZAC day.

• Why do we commemorate ANZAC day on the 25th April;

• What the name of the day represents

• The nature of the ANZAC legacy. To the date firstly. April 25 is of course the anniversary of the day Australian troops landed at Gallipoli in 1915. However, this event in isolation doesn’t seem enough to make this date significant. Gallipoli was not the first time that Australians had been in battle and it was by no means an outstanding success. Australians had previously fought in the Maori wars, had deployed to Sudan in 1885, and had fought again in the Boer war between 1899 and 1902. Gallipoli was not even an Australian battle, for we landed and fought alongside troops from New Zealand, Britain, France and Newfoundland. So why have we chosen April 25? What made Gallipoli different for Australia was that it was the first major battle we Australians fought as a nation. Soldiers from every state of the new federated Australia volunteered and fought. What seared itself into our national soul was the sheer scale of casualties. Gallipoli lasted eight and a half months. In that time 7,600 Australians and 2,500 New Zealanders were killed; 24,000 were wounded. Gallipoli was a battle we lost, and people still ask why we celebrate defeat. The answer is, I believe, that in commemorating ANZAC day we never set out to celebrate victory. Had we wanted to, we had plenty of other opportunities in our military heritage. After Gallipoli, Australians won many famous battles in France, Flanders and Palestine in the Great War, and in North Africa, the Middle East, the south west Pacific, in the air and at sea in subsequent wars. This is not to mention Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam in which Australians fought with distinction. But, to return to my point, April 25th is not about military victory. As a people we choose a day when loss of war first scarred the conscience of a young nation. The loss was felt across the whole community and it was a tragedy we can all associate with.

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