Monday, April 26, 2010

United They Stood

Magnet # 227:  Map of Australian States

Material:  Acrylic

Purchased By:  Patrick

Today, Australia and New Zealand join together in observance of Anzac Day. Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, so clearly this is a military holiday and it's one of the most solemn and spiritual observance in either country's calendar. It dates back to April 25, 1915 when a united force from the two countries joined with the Allies in storming the Gallipoli peninsula, in the hopes of ultimately taking control of Constantinople. This was the first major military action fought by Australia and New Zealand during World War I, and it was of great importance to them. Australia had only been a federal commonwealth for 13 years at the onset of the war, and they wanted to prove themselves on the field of battle to gain respect from other nations. However, taking control of Constantinople and removing the Ottoman Turks from the conflict proved to be an impossible task. A stalemate soon developed between the two powers that would drag on for eight months before the Allies retreated, having lost over 220,000 soldiers. Yet, the Turks suffered even more casualties, and the Australian and New Zealander soldiers were proud of their actions during the campaign. They claimed to have forged what came to be known as the "Anzac legend," a fierce sense of unity and brotherhood in the face of the enemy. They believed they shared certain characteristics such as endurance, bravery, friendship, good humor, and perhaps most important, a certain mocking irreverence of authority and a disdain for social etiquette. They rejected the staunch behavior and rigidly marked class distinction the British fighters exhibited and maintained a sense of equality and brotherhood that was critical to their survival and followed them back to their respective nations. To these soldiers, it didn't matter so much that their mission failed - what happened between them as they stood against their enemy was of the greatest importance.

By 1916, Australia and New Zealand had officially named April 25 Anzac Day and were honoring their soldiers with services, marches, and ceremonies. One of the most distinguishing gatherings on Anzac Day would become the dawn services.  These were introduced in the 1920s when returning soldiers wanted a way to recapture the camaraderie they experienced in the final peaceful moments before morning broke and they attacked the enemy.  In those times, the half-light of dawn was considered one of the best time to strike.  At the dawn ceremonies, veterans would stand at attention and observe a moment of silence before a lone bugle began to play.  It was a very simple, solemn occasion.  But, as time passed, both Anzac Day and the dawn services have changed.  After World War II, Anzac Day has become a time to commemorate all soldiers who have fought and died for Australia and New Zealand, as well as other countries.  While it almost faded completely from public attention after Australia became involved in the Vietnam War, future generations have revived the holiday and it has become very popular with the young, bringing in record crowds with each passing year.  However, the ceremonies are also a bit rowdier and more involved as they used to be, with even rock-style concerts held in conjunction with the festivities.  Those participating in the dawn services might indulge in a 'gunfire breakfast' after the ceremonies, a mix of coffee and rum that is said to be similar to what the soldiers drank before battle.  And the services have added prayers, addresses, laying of wreaths, and the playing of national anthems.  Although Anzac Day may have changed over the decades, it's nice to see that it is still in existence and more popular than ever, continuing to bind together the nations of Australia and New Zealand, strengthening the ties that were formed on the shores of Gallipoil.

2 comments:

  1. Anzac Day sounds alot like our Memorial Day but includes two countries.

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  2. It must be nice to have an observance like that to share with another country - it must create a sense of unity.

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