On the 25th April 1915 troops from Australia and New Zealand landed north of Gaba Tepe in Turkey at a spot now known as Anzac Cove.
2,000 men from Australia and New Zealand were killed on the first day.
More and more Australians are attending ANZAC services each year. The ANZAC campaign is considered by most ordinary Australians to be the time when we came of age as a nation.
This idea is rubbished (of course) by the trendy elite. We became a nation at Federation. The ANZACS were defeated. It wasn’t our war. We were fighting for the British Empire.
Nitwits like Marilyn Lake seem to think we are celebrating war, or our subservience to England, or the privileges enjoyed by males, or whites, or something:
When participation in foreign wars becomes the basis of national identity, it requires the forgetting or marginalising of other narratives, experiences and values. The Anzac myth requires us to forget gender and racial exclusions, the long history of pacifism and anti-war movements, the democratic social experiments and visions of social justice that once defined Australia; to forget that at Gallipoli we fought for “empire” not the nation, symbolising our continuing colonial condition.
As we prepare to inaugurate a republic, she says, we should move on from this redneck racist view of history, and of our identity, into a more inclusive way of seeing ourselves and the way we relate to the world. People like Professor Lake cannot seem to abide the thought that people might not share her passions, and see things her way, or be thinking about her issues, even for a minute. They should be made to. For their own good.
I am not at all distressed or alienated by the fact that Australia is part of an international community – the British Empire, now the Commonwealth of Nations – which has brought higher standards of living, education, rule of law and stable government to many nations and many millions of people around the world. I am proud to be part of that family. The constant blathering by Australian republicans about the need to cut our apron strings to Britain and form our own identity seems more like teenage rebelliousness than maturity or vision.
The ANZAC campaign was a failure at many levels – politics, planning, local command. Foolish, ill-informed choices were made. Thousands of young men were killed in a campaign that probably made no difference to the outcome of World War One at all. None of that should be celebrated, and it isn’t.
But here’s the thing. We made a commitment and we kept to it. The young men from Australia and New Zealand who landed on that beach had every reason to complain, to refuse to comply, to rebel. But they didn’t. They endured cold, poor food, poor command. Many of them endured grievous injury and death. And in all of that they were courageous, disciplined, purposeful. They cared for one another, they did not give up, they sacrificed their own hopes and even their lives for the sake of others.
We became a nation at Federation. We showed what kind of nation we could be at Anzac Cove. The qualities shown there – discipline, self-sacrifice, courage, persistence – are exactly the qualities we need now. They are what defines us at our best. They are our best hope for the future.
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.