Today the 25th April is ANZAC DAY – A day of remembrance and honoring those brave young men who went and fought for our freedom in WW1, WW2, Vietnam War and the Korean War and many others since then.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted.
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not wear them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
by English poet and writer Laurence Binyon
In August 2017 Muriel and I were privileged to visit Villiers Bretenoux and the Australian National War Memorial.
On the walls the battle honours awarded to the Australian Imperial Force for service on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918. Beneath these inscriptions are the names of more than 10,700 Australians who died in France and have “no known grave”.
2,144 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery, 605 of whom remain unidentified at Villiers-Bretonneux.
Row upon row of white headstones. As one walks amongst the fallen, the silence of our tour group was felt.
We visited many memorials this day to pay tribute to the Australians, the New Zealanders, Canadians, British and the French.
As our coach took us through many small communities in the French Countryside we saw War Memorials on every corner. Scattered in the fields were many white lonely graves, soldiers buried where they died.
We also visited the Beaumont Hammel Newfoundland Memorial with its well-preserved trenches enables you to actually see what it would have been like on the battlefields. The trenches are now wooden pathways that you can walk along. The scary thing is that you could nearly reach over and shake hands with the enemy.
It had been a long day but one thing did make us laugh. Our coach took a wrong turn and the other coaches followed. We ended up at a dead end on a goat track amongst the farms in France. Slowly the coaches had to back up and try several times to turn around. Eventually we got back on track to where we were heading. Cheers resounded loudly on our coach.
As we were heading back to the ship our cruise director – there were two – one was back on the ship – she announced that as we were late heading back to the ship there would be no port talk and we would just go to dinner. Port talk for anyone who has not been on a ship or cruise is to tell us what we would be doing the next day. Usually they are 15 minutes or less from experience but this one we had for both the Rhine and Seine Cruise would talk for 30 minutes or more. He also expected everyone and I mean everyone to attend. So when this was announced we all clapped and cheered and it actually brightened our mood. We spent the rest of the drive laughing crying and remembering all we did this day.
** He punished us the next night and the talk was nearly an hour**
On the 25th April the Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli. This was a bloody campaign with both sides, the Anzacs and the Ottoman Turkish Defenders with heavy casualties. By the time the sun sets roughly 2,500 lay dying or wounded.
This lasted for 8 months. Over 8,000 Australians died in this campaign and many more wounded. They went through severe hardship in those 8 months. Even though this failed its “military objectives” April 25 and Gallipoli became the day that Australians remember the sacrifice these men gave their country
In 1916 on the 25th April, the first Anzac Day commemorations were held around Australia.
We also remember those who served and lost their lives in the Second World War. Services are held around the nation at Dawn, the time of the first landing. Later on in the morning there are marches in all major cities and country towns. This is where former servicemen and women meet up. Many thousands of people watch and wave flags as they all march by. It’s a time when we as Australians come together as one.
Services are held also at Gallipoli and many thousands of Australians make the pilgrimage to be there for this very moving service. There is also a service at Villiers Bretonneux to remember the fallen of the 1918 Battle to recapture Villers-Bretenneux.
On Anzac Day and also Remembrance Day – November 11th, we wear poppies. November 11th 1918 is Armistice Day, the end of the first World War. The red poppy is the first flowers to grow on soldiers graves in Flanders. We also wear Rosemary as this signifies remembrance and it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.
In Flanders fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae (1872-1918)
Our cousin – not sure how many times removed served in the WW1 – I have a photocopy of a picture of William Charles Lehmann taken in 1915. He was 17. Recruits were supposed to be 19 +. He was one of the lucky ones. He came home and married his sweetheart.
Our Dad George Donald Adams served in the Second World War. He was in the 2/11 AIF. He was stationed in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. From our dads notes:
“Early March 1943 I was sent with our battalion the 2/11 to the 51 Mile Peg out of Darwin. We had taken over that post vacated by the 2/2 Pioneers. The Japs were bombing day and night. On some manoeuvres we had up to 40 Jap bombers and fighters passing up to 30,000 feet above. “
We Will Remember them
Lest we Forget