Tomorrow, 25th April, is Anzac Day. Anzac day is a very special day in Australia. It is a national public holiday here and considered to be one of the most spiritual and solemn days of the year. Anzac is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers are known as Anzacs.
Image Courtesy of Kim Dove
Its history dates back to world War one. Winston Churchill had a plan to capture Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, who were allies to Germany. So on the 25th of April 1915, the Anzac forces landed in Gallipoli in a dawn raid intended to take the Turks by surprise. But under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, resistance was fierce. What was intended as a quick strike ended up being a bloody eight-month battle.
More than 11,000 Anzac soldiers died. The British were there too and suffered nearly 30,000 deaths. The official figure for the Turkish deaths is around 87,000 but some say it could have been much higher.
So, the first Anzac Day was on April 25th 1916 to mark that event. But today, Anzac Day is seen as a national day to commemorate all Anzac soldiers killed in any military action wherever it was. It’s a day to remember those who fought for their country and lost their lives.
Dawn ceremonies take place all around the country in honour of the dawn landing. And each year thousands of Australians make the journey to Gallipoli Cove in north west Turkey for the dawn service there.
Yesterday, in my local newspaper, there was an article by Laura Buttigieg who made the pilgrimage last year. The final paragraph of her article touched me enormously. She explained that after the Australian service she walked past the Turkish Memorial where people were kneeling and praying. She felt a tug on her hand and turned to see a little girl in a school uniform. The little girl spoke in Turkish so her mother explained to the reporter what she was saying “She would like a photo with you. Would you mind?”
After the photo is taken the little girl smiles at the reporter and says just one word – “friends”.