On April 25th each year, Australia stands still. This is ANZAC Day, ANZAC being an acronym for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. Across New Zealand and Australia tens of thousands of people will proudly remember all those countrymen who gave their lives in military service. While April 25th marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. On this date in 1915 the ANZACs went ashore in Gallipoli, to fight the Turks. , the commemoration has now been broadened to recognize not only the Gallipoli fallen, but those from both nations who have served in all theatres of war.
A feature of ANZAC day is the Dawn Service. At the State War Memorial in Kings Park ,Perth, Western Australia, a crowd of 50,000 is expected, making it the world’s and Australia’s largest dawn event, beginning at 4.30 am. Across the nation, in small towns and capital cities a nation will remember its military as the sun rises.
Gallipoli Day is also remembered in Ireland as it is estimated that some 3,000 Irishmen lost their lives in that awful place, many of them in the 10th Irish Division fighting alongside their ANZAC comrades, according to historian Jeff Gildea “Overall, the Irish lost more men than New Zealand at Gallipoli throughout the course of 1915,” Mr Kildea told the Irish Echo in 2010.
One of our best known and loved folk singers, the late Liam Clancy, brought the Gallipoli story to many thousands who would not otherwise have known of this awful episode. His memorable and moving rendition of Eric Bogle’s The Band Played Waltzing Matilda can be heard by clicking on the link. A grim reminder of the awful cost of war.
It is estimated that more than 6,000 Irish-born men and women served in what was known as the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, with about 1,000 of them dying in action or as a result of their battle wounds. There is no doubt but that many thousands of Irish-born have followed them since. It is appropriate that we join our ANZAC friends in remembering this day too.
On a recent visit to Australia, I visited the Queensland State Memorial at Anzac Square in Brisbane and share some of the photographs below in remembrance of them.
As WB Yeats wrote in his poem An Irish Airman Foresees His Death:
“Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds.”