Lest we forget

ANZAC Day has come around again, and it’s become something of a tradition for me to mark it by blogging on the topic and finding some appropriate poem or piece of prose or quote to finish things off. It’s not that it’s a public holiday and I can have a lie in and a break from work, but because I have huge respect for the people whose sacrifices over a century ago led to April 25th being set aside for their recognition. As I’ve said more than once over at my own blog, Australians seem to get this in a way we Brits do not – one does not have to approve of this or that war to honour those who were sent to fight it and who gave time and blood doing so. And as Banjo Paterson reminds us below, Brits have also been among those who died for Australia, so it seems appropriate for this Brit, and I’d hope most other ex-pats here, to stand up as we hear the opening notes of Advance Australia Fair and to spend the two minute’s silence reflecting on those who have been maimed and those who have been silenced forever for the sake of others.

Australia takes her pen in hand,
To write a line to you,
To let you fellows understand,
How proud we are of you.

From shearing shed and cattle run,
From Broome to Hobsons Bay,
Each native-born Australian son,
Stands straighter up today.

The man who used to “hump his drum”,
On far-out Queensland runs,
Is fighting side by side with some
Tasmanian farmer’s sons.

The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar
To grimly stand the test,
Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,
With miners from the west.

The old state jealousies of yore
Are dead as Pharaoh’s sow,
We’re not State children any more
We’re all Australians now!

Our six-starred flag that used to fly,
Half-shyly to the breeze,
Unknown where older nations ply
Their trade on foreign seas,

Flies out to meet the morning blue
With Vict’ry at the prow;
For that’s the flag the Sydney flew,
The wide seas know it now!

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

The honoured graves beneath the crest
Of Gaba Tepe hill,
May hold our bravest and our best,
But we have brave men still.

With all our petty quarrels done,
Dissensions overthrown,
We have, through what you boys have done,
A history of our own.

Our old world diff’rences are dead,
Like weeds beneath the plough,
For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
They’re all Australians now!

So now we’ll toast the Third Brigade,
That led Australia’s van,
For never shall their glory fade
In minds Australian.

Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,
Till right and justice reign.
Fight on, fight on, till Victory
Shall send you home again.

And with Australia’s flag shall fly
A spray of wattle bough,
To symbolise our unity,
We’re all Australians now.

12 comments for “Lest we forget

  1. bilbaoboy
    April 25, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I stand with you.

    My grandfather fought at Passchendaele. You can think what you like about the war, the generals,… but honour the suffering people took on our behalf.

    • April 26, 2012 at 2:32 am

      Indeed. We can talk about lions being led by donkeys for 363 other days of the year (Nov 11th being the other obvious exception), but ANZAC Day is for honouring those who fought and those who still fight.

  2. April 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Many thanks for both the reminder and the poem which I had not seen before!

  3. April 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Lovely. One going up at my place too shortly.

  4. nisakiman
    April 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    The saddest thing is that those brave men in both world wars; those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that their descendants could enjoy freedom; they would now be turning in their graves if they could see how those freedoms, so hard won, are being pissed up against the wall by a bunch of intellectual pygmies who have no concept of sacrifice.

    Sometimes I could cry when I see what’s being done by the politicians of today.

  5. meltemian
    April 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Ozboy’s site has an Australian’s view on this, good posts as well.

    • April 26, 2012 at 2:38 am

      Excellent post it is too. I referenced Ataturk’s comment in my ANZAC Day post at mine last year. The man absolutely nailed it.

  6. April 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Just watch Gallipoli. Awesome film!

    • April 26, 2012 at 2:50 am

      Also to be recommended if you can find it is the 80s mini-series ANZACs. It covers a unit from its formation at the start of the war, through the attack and then withdrawal at Gallipoli, and then into France and the eventual Armistice. Good mix of humour and drama, but the thing that caught my attention when I watched it as a kid was that by the last episode there were only a relative handful of ‘originals’, as the characters called themselves, left from those who’d queued up at the recruiting station early in the first episode. All the rest were replacements for those who’d been killed.

  7. April 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Excellent memorial.

    The subtle forgetting of the Commonwealth soldiers who died is another snip at the ties which used to bind us. Well done for marking this sacrifice.

  8. Alexander K
    April 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for this piece and for the poem, one of my late father’s favourite pieces of Australian folk culture.
    Kiwis, a significant number of them sons of non-English-speaking settlers from Europe who had fled to NZ from political and/or religious oppression in the nineteenth century, joined their fellows from all around the then British Empire to fight the forces of darkness in greater numbers than from any other country on a per capita basis during the 1914-18 war. I am saddened that the official memory of that horrendous sacrifice has been almost air-brushed from history by the forces of the Left in the UK, to the point where documentaries shown by the BBC now state that many Colonial troops fought alongside the British, conveniently ignoring the fact that us ‘Colonials’ were British during both World Wars, but lost that status in the 1960s when the UK decided that membership of the then European Common Market was more important than any sacrifice former colonies made.
    Every city, town and tiny hamlet in NZ has its memorial listing the dead of both wars and older settlements also list those who fell in the Boer War, now referred to as the ‘South African’ War. My father, who grew up in NZ but was immensely proud of his Australian birth, fought in both wars; in the first as a mounted trooper then as a Machine-gunner in the second. My wife and I have visited many of the battlefields where he fought so long ago and the bravery of him and his comrades still awes me. I have a mental picture of my father as a scrawny and frightened teenager enduring his sixteenth birthday in battle on the back of a horse in Flanders.
    My older brother was killed flying a fighter-bomber not long before the end of the war in Europe; a cousin who my brother attended boarding school with, joined the RNZN when my brother joined the RNZAF. Our cousin lost his life on one of the infamous Murmansk convoys and most Kiwi families I know have similar sad gaps.

    As ‘Woman on a Raft’ wrote, ‘the subtle forgetting of the Commonwealth soldiers who died is another snip at the ties that used to bind us’.

    • April 26, 2012 at 3:01 am

      Yes, regrettably I have to say that this seems more due to my native country wanting to be part of something else – EU, America’s special buddy, whatever – than my adopted country and others wanting to distance themselves. I don’t think it’s a deliberate snipping of ties but I do feel that maintaining them is no longer a priority and that nobody in Westminster is interested in replacing any that look a bit frail. This happens from time to time but seems to have been particularly bad the last fifteen years or so.

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