Lest We Forget
It's ANZAC Day. A national holiday to commemorate the battles at Gallipoli between New Zealand and Australian forces and the Turks in World War 1. It is an emotional day for many New Zealanders. We are prone to nostalgia. Though New Zealand is remote from the battlefields of Europe we considered ourselves to be the original Little Britain and 'where she went we went'. The casualties were devastating to the small New Zealand population at the time - like European countries engaged in that ridiculous conflict it had a lasting effect; wiping out some of the brightest and the best of an entire generation. Many regard Gallipoli as the moment when the colonies came of age, assuming identity and character of our own. Perhaps.
The dawn parade numbers swell each year - almost in inverse numbers to the surviving servicemen of two world wars. RSA members have their annual moment of remembered glory and invoke their canon:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
For those who think there is glory in war then perhaps a poem from the frontlines might temper their views:
I KNEW a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
Siegfried Sassoon 1918.