Thursday, April 25, 2013

The unique features of ANZAC Day

Southe West Rocks Dawn Service 2013

This photo by Steve Sanders shows this morning's dawn service at South West Rocks, a little seaside town at the mouth of the Macleay River.

My 2011 post, ANZAC Day, national identity & the power of images, was strongly influenced by my experiences in Greece the pervious year. It includes a photo of Turkish and Australian flags that I still think captures the power of image.

Last year's post, ANZAC Day, Toynbee & impermanence, dealt in part with impermanence, including my own family's experiences,

Next week, early on the morning of Friday 3 May, marks the anniversary of the death of Great Uncle Morris Drummond, killed in battle in France. By all accounts, Morris was a remarkable man, the practical but charismatic man who formed the centre of the family, who looked after the others. He did not enlist because he wanted to, but because he believed that it was his duty.Polish ex-servicemen March  ANZAC Day 1967  Photo Paull Barratt 

When I think about Morris, about the potential lost, about the fact that my daughters have had no central contact with this man, I feel sad. Given that I was a late starter in the children stakes, they might never have met him anyway, although they did meet his half sister Ellie (Helen) when they were very young,

The next photo by Paul Barratt shows Polish ex-servicemen marching in the ANZAC Day Parade, Sydney, 1967. The Polish experience in World War Two was bitter. When I saw the photo, I sent it to a Polish Australian friend to show her the Polish Australian links.

ANZAC Day is about remembrance, about continuing contribution and continuing links.

Morris died in 1917. A few weeks ago, cousin Sophie who has been writing for the Financial Review (she has just gone on maternity leave) contacted me about background information for a stAunt Ellie Inverellory she had been writing about. We chatted about Morris, as I did later with her Dad, On Sophie's side of the family, Morris remains a very large figure.  

This is a World War One photo of Ellie, Sophie's grandmother, at my grandfather's property Mawelton near Inverell.

Modern Australia is a migrant country drawing people from many parts of the world who have been in historical conflict with each other and indeed with Australia. In this context, ANZAC Day really is quite distinctive.  It remains not a celebration of military victory achieved by one group, our group, but a celebration of duty, loss and contribution. That is its distinctive feature as compared to other military celebrations. ANZAC was a military loss. Australia celebrates and the victors, the Turks, can join in as can others. They can share the Australian views of the diggers, but without detracting from their own images and history.

I think that's important.


Scott Hastings said...

I use this day to pray that our next war against fascism doesn't need to be in our own country. It doesn't seem to be working much though.

Jim Belshaw said...

I am much more positive than you, Scott!

Rummuser said...

Strange coincidence Jim. I blogged about the Turks and Gallipoli today and gave a link to

Evan said...

I love this generosity of ANZAC day.

I'd love to know if any other country celebrates a day like this where another country is included in the name. That seems uniquely Australian to me as well.

Jim Belshaw said...

Well, New Zealand too, Evan!

Thanks Ramana. Interesting how we reinterpret history to suit our own purposes. Like the ANZ focus, when in fact far more British lives were lost: 8709 Australians died, 2,707 New Zealanders, about 21,000 British, about 9800 French and 1,358 Indians.

Evan said...