Some Thoughts on ANZAC Day

Mr Gato DU is somewhere in Australia enjoying his new freedom with changed owners. If they treat him with respect he will take them to places far and wide and show them the diversity and beauty of this vast land. After a long search and lots of questions involving cost benefits, size, easy management and the call of overseas travel Scout and I have found and adopted Mr Gato DU Junior. Junior he shall be known. He meets our new needs of easy storage, short, sharp trips and a bit of modernity. Circumstances to date have mean’t we have not been able to venture far. But soon……

For now another ANZAC Day comes around and I asked myself “what are we celebrating here?” I grow emotional over the haunting words of the wounded soldier in Eric Bogle’s song “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. He asks:

“And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “what are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question”

So I cast back through memories of ANZAC Day’s past and my families long history in the military and at war. Is it that by remembering our fallen loved ones and those who survived the horror that is war aren’t we really trying to validate and continue the concept of the virtue of sacrifice to a new and modern generation where extreme personal sacrifice has not been known? We are remembering a generation to whom sacrifice was a way of life. These are people, many born in the 19th century, who lived through a world war and the Spanish Flu only to find a new prosperity ripped away from them in the Great Depression. In their fifties they had the heartbreak of seeing their sons and daughters being slaughtered in another war fought not only on the other side of the world but this time so close to home in the Pacific region. They endured because to them sacrifice was a part of this life that brought you closer to the next life. I don’t know how you do that. I do know though that my Great Uncle Eric Low (47905 Pte. E.L. Low) died on the Flanders Fields in Ypres, Belgium in 1917 after surviving the Gallipoli Campaign. He was 20 years old when he died in the mud and gore on some Belgian farmers’ wheat fields. He was one of 100,000 New Zealand soldiers who left their homeland to fight for a British Empire that was even then forgetting them. I, of course, never knew Eric or any of them for that matter but I would hazard a guess that not many understood what hell they were in for. Maybe that dream of heroism and the ultimate sacrifice was enough?

I chose Eric Bogle’s song “The Green Fields of France” (originally titled “No Man’s Land”) and sung beautifully by John McDermott for the opener of this post because it provoked thoughts of Eric Low and the northern fields in France where condemned men and women fought inglorious battles across blood-stained fields. I could have easily chosen Bogle’s song “And the Band Played Waltzing Maltilda” but that was a tale of the nastiness of the Gallipoli campaign. I could have chosen Redgum’s “I was Only Nineteen” but that is a tale of disillusion from Vietnam. We visited northern France and Ypres in Belgium when searching for Great Uncle Eric’s grave. Standing alongside rows and rows of white crosses and gravestones is a very emotional experience. I weep now as I think of it. To read all those names of very young men and women sacrificed for powerful MEN’s (and I capitalise the word men deliberately) neurosies and selfishness is to try to understand why such things can happen. I am not sure that can really be understood.

New Zealand graves in Longueval, Somme
Ypres, Belgium

So lets remember and yes, even celebrate the sacrifice and the lost lives of a generation of young men and women who were led to their deaths in an unholy war and the miriad uneccessary wars since then. And yes, lets gather in our thousands in New Zealand and Australia at dawn and around the world on the 25th April each year to teach our children and grandchildren that there is nothing about war that even hints at glory or heroism. Individuals rise above and achieve that. We, the “older” generation have failed miserably and ANZAC Day is our testiment to that. But lets continue to gather together with a rising hope that a new generation can understand that there must be a better way. And contemplate Eric Bogle’s beautiful words:

“and i can’t help but wonder oh willy mcbride
do all those who lie here know why they died
did you really believe them when they told you the cause
did you really believe that this war would end wars
well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
the killing and dying it was all done in vain
oh willy mcbride it all happened again
and again, and again, and again, and again” from “The Green Fields of France”.

2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on ANZAC Day

  1. Great to read about Mr. Gato Jr. looks very swish and comfortable.
    Read your ANZAC day sentiments and quite agree …..what have we (world) all learnt!
    We sung both the Australian and NZ National Athens at the service we attended yesterday. Gayle was with a group from her choir and they sang many of the old songs that the troops sang in both WW1 and WW2 after the service ….of course our generation knows all the words….not so sure about our children and their children?
    Hope you watched the Warriors vs Storm last night – such a good ANZAC day match.
    A big hi to Margaret (scout) and yourself and family.
    Cheers Randal


    1. Thanks Randal
      ANZAC Day is very ell observed here with a number of different dawn services at different memorial sites around the Sunshine Coast. I did watch the Warriors v Storm. Good game and Warriors stitched up again as per usual!
      Hi to Gayle and everyone
      Mike and Scout


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