My most vivid memory of ANZAC Day is as follows;
It was an icy autumn morning. Waking at the ungodly hour of 4:45am, I put my kilt on and drove to the Paraparaumu Domain to join my pipe band at the dawn service for ANZAC Day. After marching the colossal distance of perhaps 75 metres, I then stood silently in formation to be graced by the reprehensible representative of the local RSA, important to mention that this guy wasn’t a veteran. In this spectacular speech the man lectured the assembly about the very serious threat of “youth gone wild!”. The speech spoke at length about how the kids these days don’t understand proper values as all they seem to do is drink, fuck, and smoke weed (just imagine if he knew what Facebook was). All the meanwhile, he was ranting in front of about 6 under 18 members of the Kapiti Coast Pipe Band and about 30 members of the Air Training Cadets. Amongst his ad hom ramblings the man hailed that a better time once existed where young people were sensible, listened to their parents, and would volunteer to get shot at in a war millions of miles away from home. This time was 1915 and it was a better time indeed.
There are two things to take away from this story.
- I used to play in a Pipe Band, no you can’t see photos…
- A day of remembrance and reflection was wholly capitalised by an old man with a chip on his shoulder who sought glamourise the action of going to pointless wars.
This story signifies my biggest personal gripe about ANZAC Day. It is so frequently used as a soapbox to glorify war and criticise modern culture.
Remembering Gallipoli is important, remembering any and every war is just as important. This is because war is ugly and the most horrific thing the world can face, remembrance should only ever serve to remind us of such a shocking stanza of history.
Gallipoli was actually a tactical failure, remember?
It’s funny how infrequently we hear about Gallipoli campaign’s strategic development. This is because the mission in which the majority of ANZAC troops fought in was unsuccessful.
A combination of poorly collected intelligence and an ineffective naval strike forced the ground operation to be rushed. The operation occurred under the pretense that the position would be lightly defended (which of course it wasn’t), however there was little to no oversight from either generals or the politicians brainstorming the operation which meant that nobody was in charge to tell the soldiers to change their plans. As a result, the ANZAC forces ended up landing several kilometres shy of the intended destination, instead the assaulted a heavily fortified Turkish position placed on a literal canyon face.
Now I’ve seen Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith before, and subsequently I’m aware of the strategic importance of the high ground. The ANZAC’s were fighting a literal uphill battle that they were arguably never intended to win in the first place. It’s important to mention however that despite the odds against them, the ANZAC’s fought unquestionably bravely, there is no argument that our soldiers were unsuccessful due to a lack of skill or motivation. It was the central leadership that ensured the failure of Gallipoli, not the soldiers.
The reason why the ANZAC’s were thrown into the snake pit in the war was because they were more expendable in the eyes of the allied generals. Our soldiers weren’t British, we were just part of the colonies and subsequently there was less human impact to the lives of our soldiers. All in the name of Empire I guess…
So when I see shit like this shared on Facebook with 500,000+ likes…
I begin to think that the story of Gallipoli is being misrepresented in our society. The Gallipoli campaign wasn’t a war that upholds any aspect of our current society and representing our society is not what the ANZAC’s died for. The ANZAC’s died because the central leadership of the allied forces in the First World War didn’t give a shit about human life or the consequences of war. To suggest otherwise (as this illustration does) glorifies Gallipoli and discourages us from learning about the truth behind the war.
I believe in remembering the ANZAC’s however I do not believe in remembering them out of glory. When I think of ANZAC Day, the first thought that comes to my mind is pity. Pity for the lives that were lost so young and to such tragic circumstances. This is what people should think about when they remember the ANZAC’s, only then can we understand the effects of war when faced with a future conflict.
Go look at the Gallipoli Exhibition at Te Papa.
I am aware that not every ANZAC Day celebration results in a false representation of conflict, and subsequently I feel as though I should point out one the most moving and eye-opening experiences you can have in regards to ANZAC Day.
The Scale of Our War Exhibition at Te Papa in Wellington represents war from the perspective of the soldiers involved in the conflict. It does this so perfectly by recreating aspects of the conflict and telling you the stories of individual soldiers so that you can develop personal connections. For example, one of the first small blocks of text I read was about Lt-Col. William Malone from Taranaki. Throughout each section of the exhibition I read more and more about the tales of Malone that I began to grow quite attached to this character his role in the campaign. When I read the harrowing text revealing that Malone had been killed in action I felt genuinely shaken. This simple experience reflected the horror of the Gallipoli Conflict, an experience I feel that truly reflects what ANZAC Day should be about.
Just go to this exhibition, it so god damned worthwhile.
It’s very easy to read this post and assume that I’m yet another city liberal who is trying to tear down kiwi culture and replace it with something that suits me a little better. Whilst that is more or less exactly who I am and arguably exactly what I’m trying to do, I want people to understand the motivation behind this.
Despite never fighting in a war myself, my experience in talking to veterans, going to exhibitions such as the Scale of Our War, and studying conflicts such as Gallipoli and Syria, I have come to the conclusion that war is kinda shit. People die, they die in horrible conditions, and those that don’t die suffer from mental and physical disabilities as a result.
My ideal New Zealand is a culture that understands the horror of war, a culture that knows the consequences of conflict before needlessly entering one. The way we can do that is by remembering our fallen soldiers in a fashion that truly depicts what the ANZAC’s fought and died for.
Lest we forget the ANZACs. Lets never put people through such hardship ever again.