Saturday, 25 April 2015

Glorification or Gratitude?

My mother took me to the Anzac Day commemoration every year in memory of her brother Tom, who died at Ypres. From about the age of five or six I have distinct memories of the walk down silent streets in the dark, my hand in hers, to the white statue of the soldier with bowed head under a slouch hat and hands resting on his gun stock. With my mum I listened to the Ode and the Last Post and put a posy at the soldier’s feet.  Mum always cried. She didn’t have to tell me the occasion had nothing to do with glorifying war.
            As an adult I observed how poorly attended these commemorations had become. Media references by commentators and academics to ‘irrelevance’, ‘anachronism’ and ‘drunken old codgers drinking too much’ had brainwashed the younger generation into dismissing the Anzacs’ part in our history and it was now politically incorrect to value this part of our history or to be seen honouring the fallen in that or any other war. It was rare to see a person under fifty at a dawn service.
            But the tide has turned. In this year of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the crowds at dawn services across the nation have been nothing short of astounding. Children of all ages, teens and twenties, couples in their thirties, people of Asian, African, European and Middle-Eastern origin, all shoulder to shoulder in respectful silence listening to prayers of gratitude and speeches honouring the men and women who have represented this country in many arenas of conflict.

Section of the crowd at Tea
Tree Gull Memorial Arch  25/4/2015

My mother would have been happy to see this. But she would still have cried. Lest we forget.