Today is April 25th and it's a special day not just in New Zealand but also in Australia and even in Turkey. In Britain there's November 11th. and just about every nation has a special day when they remember those who have given their lives in the service of their country. In Australia and New Zealand that day is April 25th and is known as Anzac day.
The date is significant and especially so this year as April 25th 1915 was the date that the British Empire launched and audacious assault on the Gallipoli peninsular in Western Turkey. An attack that was to turn into one of the worst defeats in History.
We could talk about the battle and the first world war but there's probably loads of articles and maybe a few hubs that could do that much better than I could so I want to spend a little while exploring what the day means for New Zealand.
What does it mean to be an Anzac?
Who are the ANZACS?
It isn't really a word but an acronym thought up the British commanders at Gallipoli to describe some of the units from Australia and New Zealand under their command and it literally stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
The celebrations start before dawn with the old soldiers forming up to march through the towns where they live to arrive at the place of remembrance at dawn because that's the time when the Anzac troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli
War had just been declared in Europe. The whole of Europe was engulfed in a conflict that no one had wanted but had seemed powerless to stop. Five Empires had declared war on each other. A sixth Empire was about to be dragged into it and the world would never be the same again.
On the one side were Germany and Austria-Hungary. On the other were Russia, France and Britain. The stage was set for a global conflict. Along with this just before the outbreak of the war Germany had signed a mutual defence pact with the Ottoman empire in the Middle East, as soon as the pact was signed Russia mobilized in the east and looked ready to strike at the Ottoman Turks in the east.
Within days of war being declared in Europe volunteers started to enlist all over the British Empire and both Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany (technically both countries were independent but both regarded Britain as the 'mother country' so were willing to send men to fight).
By November 1914 the first units of these volunteers were ready to be sent to Europe and were sent to Egypt to await transportation across the Med to France but just then Turkey struck at the Suez Canal from her bases in Palestine. The attack was driven back but the weakness in the Empire had been revealed, if the Suez ever fell to the Turks then Britain's fighting capability would be cut in half. Something had to be done to prevent that, Turkey had to be knocked out of the war and quickly as those troops were badly needed in Europe!
Thus was hatched a plan to send a fleet to level Constantinople (Istanbul). The fleet sailed but found that the approaches to the Sea of Marmara (the small sea on the other side of the Dardanelles) were guarded by shore based guns and mined. To clear the mines would take time but the guns also protected the minefields and were out of range of the Battleships. Landings would have to be made to clear the way for the ships to deal with the mines, thus was hatched a plan that turned into one of the worst defeats on Military history, the Battle for the Gallipoli peninsular.
What makes Anzac day so special?
April 25th is the day that the invasion of the Gallipoli peninsular took place. The invasion started at Dawn and the reason the parades start at dawn is to remember that it was at the dawn of the day that the men stormed the beaches and began to lay down their lives for our freedom.
I once asked an Aussie mate of mine what made Gallipoli so special to Aussies and I really liked the answer I got back "Because there isn't a family in Australia among the settlers who didn't lose someone there!"
For the Kiwis and Aussies Anzac day is the day when you remember those of your own family who paid the price of our freedom.
For me and my family, I didn't have any relatives to went to Gallipoli but my Grandfather was fifteen and serving with the North Staffordshire Regiment when he was wounded at the first Battle of the Somme in 1915. At 15 years old he was shipped back to Britain and not expected to live more than a few days (shot in the stomach twelve times by a machine gun). He lived to seventy years of age and I do remember he was a bit of a grump at times (especially if you gave him a Beer with froth on, "I ordered a pint, not a half" was a statement heard more than once!) but it just seems appropriate to remember the price he paid at Anzac day.
Don't get me wrong. We have remembrance day parades in England and they are really good, but New Zealand has made it personal.
Their enemy speaks (General Mustafa Kamal Ataturk)
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives (at Gallipoli battles).. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.. You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now living in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
Gallipoli's most famous Artist (Hamilton)
Auckland, it's about the people
Each city does it differently
Did you see the WW1 vehicles that took part in the Wellington parade? They are original! (part of the collection of Sir Peter Jackson the movie director)
The Statue is of Sapper Horace Moore Jones and Hamilton had it commissioned to commemorate and adopted son as well as 100 years since the campaign. Moore Jones painted the pictures of Gallipoli that spoke to the nations
In Auckland it's about the people. Not just those who served but those who those who were the ones who stayed behind and paid the price of not knowing what was happening to their loved ones, not knowing when or if they were going to get that fateful message that their loved ones were missing in action or worse.
One thing that i found stunning the first time that I went to an Anzac day parade was the fact that by far the majority of people there were young people. they hadn't seen the horrors of war but they were there remembering what their fathers and grandfathers had done to ensure their freedom.
Anzac day today
Gallipoli was where it all started. The ANZACS were born in the heat of Battle but the story didn't finish there. It goes on even today.
Since those fateful days one hundred years ago the Anzacs have stood tall on the world stage and they have stood together. Two small countries standing for what they believed in, first to help their mother country Britain in two world wars but since then standing with their friends and allies when they were needed and more recently as nations helping others stand up against tyranny and oppression.
Today Anzac day isn't just about remembering the past. It's also about saying a big "Thank you" to those who gave their all for our freedom.
Our Prayer and national anthem
Dawn at Anzac cove in Turkey
A special day for both Australia and New Zealand.This hub was an attempt to explain a little more about this land I live in and what it means to live here, in a small country that has a big impact on the world we live in.
Normally Anzac day in New Zealand ends with the remembrance service broadcast from Chunuk Bair in Turkey, scene of one of the fiercest battles of the whole war. I couldn't find a clip from this years Chunuk Bair but thought the last one was appropriate
Why the poppy? you might ask, well the story goes that in the four years of brutal war as the soldiers looked out from their trenches in France all they could see growing was the humble poppy! So the poppy is a symbol of hope that among the brutality of war life will return after and things will grow once more.
Hope you enjoyed the hub