The ultimate sacrifice. Reflection for Anzac Day

Tuesday, 25 April 2023

Lest we forget

This year marks the 108th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. So much has been written about Gallipoli over the years that reflecting years later on this disastrous chapter of our history almost seems trite.


And yet, no. The deaths of so many young Australians and New Zealanders at Gallipoli generated the spirit of the ANZAC and one of the reasons why we commemorate April 25 each year. The date should never be forgotten, dismissed or treated as just another holiday.


The official war historian Charles Bean, who covered the hostilities at Gallipoli and the Western Front, believed that the Spirit of ANZAC “stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat.”


ANZAC Day is a very important event. Many young people sacrificed their lives so future generations could enjoy productive and peaceful lives.


We owe that generation much.

World War 1 (WW1) should never have happened. Europe and much of the world stumbled into the conflict after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914. While Gallipoli was an unmitigated debacle, the trench warfare on the battlefields of Europe was just as calamitous.


Anyone who has studied the period or watched movies and television series about WW1 could only agree that the loss of life was appalling … and futile. A recent German remake of the movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, is an excellent retelling of one of the twentieth centuries greatest tragedies.


As stated at the end credits, neither the Germans nor the Allies gained much territory in the trenches after four years of fighting, and yet the cost in human life was atrocious. Around 20 million people were killed and another 21 million were wounded, many of them on the Western Front.


The trenches stretched well over 500 kilometres from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps. If machine gun fire, mortar and mustard gas didn’t kill the soldiers, diseases such as trenchfoot were often fatal.   

The Australian death toll was about 62,000 while New Zealand casualties were estimated at around 18,000. ANZAC Day does not glorify war but allows us to remember the brave men and women who left our shores and never returned home.


Their ultimate sacrifice should never be forgotten.  


Image: Unknown Aussie solder. Image courtesy War History Online.


Image: Australian soldiers in the Lone Pine trenches. Photo courtesy Australian War Memorial.


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