Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A.N.Z.A.C. Day 2007. Lest we forget.

On This Day April 25
1901: Naval contingent returned to Sydney from China and the Boxer Rebellion
1915: Australian, New Zealand and British troops landed at Gallipoli, the ANZAC Legend is born
1916: First widely observed commemoration of ANZAC Day in Australia, Egypt and London
1918: Lieutenant C.W.K. Sadlier, VC at Villers-Brenneux, France
1942: Japanese bomb Darwin, a further raid in the series of 64 bombing raids on the city

Australians say thanks to Anzacs
Wednesday Apr 25 17:11 AEST
Thousands of Australians gathered in the pre-dawn gloom at Gallipoli to mark 92 years since the ill-fated landing of troops at Anzac Cove.

With beers and two-up in Iraq, and cheers and tears at home, Australians have marked the 92nd Anzac Day with solemnity and gratitude.

From Brisbane to Baghdad and beyond, Australians honoured the Anzac spirit of sacrifice forged in Turkey in 1915, and saluted the 100,000 war dead they have suffered since.

But the day was not without controversy, from isolated incidents of vandalism to rows over a Queensland rock concert and continuing dissent over the presence of Australian troops in the Middle East.

At Adelaide's dawn service, Anzac Day committee chairman Bill Denny said the original Anzacs would be saddened by the "indiscriminate slaughter" of the four-year war in Iraq.

"They would scrutinise our deployments in the Middle East and would be happy that our casualty rates are low but saddened at the indiscriminate slaughter in which we've become mired," Mr Denny said.

"In nine short weeks, the war in Iraq would have been waged longer than World War I with questionable progress and no end in sight."

The original Anzacs would be "immensely proud" of their modern-day successors, Mr Denny said.

But young Australians, many barely out of their teens, were bearing the brunt of what "most certainly will be a long, challenging and unpredictable war".

An opposing view came from Vietnam veteran Bruce Mansfield in Melbourne, who said: "All these people that say bring the troops home from Iraq, bring them back from Timor, et cetera, excuse me, that's your opinion.

"Somebody had to go to do the dirty work, that's what you have a defence force for."

Police arrested five teenage girls after anti-war graffiti labelling Anzacs as "murderers" was discovered on a war memorial at Bathurst in central western NSW.

Vandals also struck in New Zealand, smashing crosses arranged for a dawn service in the North Island town of Patea, while police arrested a woman who burned a flag at a ceremony in the capital Wellington.

With some NSW pubs and clubs banning the traditional wartime game of two-up because of violence and drunkenness in previous years, questions were also raised over how Anzac Day should be celebrated.

Two years after a planned John Farnham concert at Gallipoli was vetoed for being at odds with the gravity of the occasion, a Gold Coast concert by rock band Powderfinger received unexpected blessing from former defence force chief Peter Cosgrove.

"What would the Diggers lying in their graves think?" he asked.

"I always think that they would be quite happy if, after the observances and after the reverence shown through dawn services and marches and the like, I'm sure they don't want Australians to go indoors and stare at the curtains.

"I think they want Australians to enjoy some of the freedoms that their sacrifice has ensured."

With a federal election due later this year, political observers saw some significance in the fact that Prime Minister John Howard attended a dawn service in the Brisbane electorate of Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

Mr Howard, who said Anzac Day would retain its "hallowed" position well into the future, later attended a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, along with Mr Rudd.

Governor-General Michael Jeffery told the crowd at the War Memorial that Australians should work to regain the values of personal responsibility and close communities that the Anzacs sacrificed their lives to preserve.

When true democratic freedom was threatened, he said, it was "worth fighting for, and if necessary, dying".

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson had a similar message for thousands of young Australians, many dressed in green and gold beanies and shirts, who attended a moving dawn service at Gallipoli in Turkey.

The original Anzacs forged values that "make us who we are, reminding us that there are some truths by which we live and that are worth defending", he said.

He described Australia as a nation whose values were "etched less in granite and marble than they are in our flag, a slouch hat, the army rising sun and a smile that says 'G'day mate, can I give you a hand?'".

New Zealand Defence Minister Winston Peters said the best way to honour the original Anzacs was for nations to resolve their differences without resorting to war.

Australian troops in Iraq were given a brief respite from war with games of two-up and "a couple of beers", according to their commander, Brigadier Michael Crane.

Those in Afghanistan were also allowed a two-beer ration and had their meals served up by officers.

In London, Australian High Commissioner Richard Alston applauded the renewed interest in the Anzac tradition at a time when the last of the Gallipoli veterans had passed.

In Papua New Guinea, veterans including the "Fuzzy Wuzzy angels" who supported Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Track in World War II were unhappy that the PNG government had failed to give them pensions.

At Sandakan in northern Borneo, scene of the infamous World War II "death marches", Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter remembered his great uncle, who was among the 2,400 allied dead.

Anzac Day was observed at Bendigo in country Victoria by 108-year-old John Campbell Ross, a wireless operator who never saw active service but nevertheless enlisted in 1918 and remains Australia's only surviving World War I veteran.

At countless marches and parades around Australia, the mood was summed up by Sydney businessman Dick Smith, who held up a sign that said simply: "Thanks."

©AAP 2007

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