Through our values we remember them

Lani Pauli 24 April 2021

The legacy and traditions of ANZAC Day were born on a fateful morning in 1915, on the beaches of Gallipoli.

Close your eyes. Imagine a heavy silence broken only by the sound of waves lapping the sides of ships waiting for the signal to disembark troops. 

It’s the early hours of 25 April 1915 and Australian and New Zealand troops are enveloped by nervous anticipation and a sense of duty to fight for their country, preparing to enter a battle that would become a powerful legacy that remains relevant today. 

Keeping your eyes closed, imagine the crisp Autumn morning breeze across your face as you become one of tens of thousands of Australians who gather at their local RSL and war memorials across Australia. As the sun rises on 25 April, we open our eyes and pay eternal respect to the sacrifices made by the young men in World War I and the service men and women in battles that followed. 

A MOMENT THAT SHAPED A NATION

The legacy and traditions remembered on 25 April earned their place in history on that fateful morning, eight months into WWI, when our allied forces (now better known as ANZACs) left on a mission to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), aiming to take Turkey out of the war. 

When they arrived at Gallipoli, and the small cove that would come to be known as ANZAC Cove, they were ambushed by a large and well-armed Turkish force. Their gallant efforts and sacrifice are often reflected upon as one of the key moments that shaped our nation’s identity. It showed the world how strong we were and our resilience in the face of a crisis. 

Troops arriving at Gallipoli

After WWI, the spirit of the ANZACs lived on and the gazetted day of commemoration (officially enacted from 1916) grew to encompass the soldiers, pilots, servicemen and women that fought in WWI, Vietnam, Korea, Malaya, the Middle East and continue playing a part in modern-day peacekeeping missions across the globe. 

While the landing at Gallipoli set Australia (and New Zealand) on an unplanned trajectory, claiming the lives of 754 Australians, 147 New Zealanders and injuring over 2,000 soldiers, it equally shaped our nation, giving us an identity as courageous protectors. It defined our innate values of mateship, sacrifice and endurance.  

IT’S WHO WE ARE

Former Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson says, despite its origins, ANZAC Day isn’t about war.

“It’s in a context of war, but in the end, it’s about love and friendship. We emerged victorious, deeply divided and inconsolably mourning 62,000 dead; we emerged from that war with a greater understanding of what it meant to be an Australian and a greater belief in ourselves.” 

The values the troops took with them to ANZAC Cove, that our Defence forces past and present have stood for and that our everyday Australians live by now can be seen in 2021, just as they were in 1915. 

Our preparedness to roll up our sleeves and lend a hand, to be there for our neighbours and to give back to our communities keep the ANZAC spirit alive. As our country continues to recover from natural disasters, global challenges, and economic hardships, we feel the legacy of those who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice to give us the life we all live today. 

The meaning of the day is as individual as the lines on our fingerprints. The emotions and connection to the day and its memories are complex. And just as the way we commemorate ANZAC Day is reshaped due to global events outside our control, perhaps so too will be our personal meaning of what we mark on 25 April. 

WHY DO WE REMEMBER? 

Today, 25 April is recognised as a day of national remembrance, with Dawn Services held across the country before marches in our capital cities and regional centres give former and current servicemen and women the opportunity to commemorate the day. 

For many, its a moment to reflect on the different meanings and outcomes of war, and what it means to be Australian. We honour the values of sacrifice, courage and an attitude of ‘getting the job done’, and pay our respects to those who gave their lives for our country.