A day to remember fallen

April 25, 2018

This year’s Anzac Day marks the end of four years of centenaries between the start and end of that tragic and significant period in Australia’s history.

Today we remember the fallen as we have done ever since April 25 was officially named Anzac Day in 1916.

It is a day to reflect on the importance of those values of sacrifice, duty, honour and mateship that were on display to the world a century ago.

It may be difficult today to understand the motivations of a generation of young men who so willingly volunteered their lives in the service of an empire so vast, so remote.

For some it may have been adventure, for others it may have been camaraderie, for many more it would have been pride and duty.

They were different times — no mass communications or media, other than newspapers.

News travelled slowly — it took five days for news of the Gallipoli landings to reach Australia when they were reported in newspapers.

Then, as casualty lists began to fill newspaper columns, the full horror of what had happened became clear.

When the sun set on April 25, 1915, more than 600 Australians had lost their lives and more than 1000 had been injured.

The list of the dead would grow to more than 11000 Anzac soldiers by the end of the Gallipoli campaign.

It was the first time Australia and New Zealand had appeared on the world stage and people were naturally proud of the way their young men had conducted themselves so far from home.

Newspapers across the world carried reports of their heroism.

This is British journalist Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett’s account of the Gallipoli landing:

‘‘Australians who were about to go into action for the first time under trying circumstances were cheerful, quiet and confident, showing no sign of nerves or excitement. As the moon waned the boats were swung out, the Australians received their last instructions, and men who six months ago were living peaceful civilian lives began to disembark on a strange, unknown shore in a strange land to attack an enemy...’’

So in April, 1915, a national identity was shaped which has carried us forward to this day 100 years later.

Are we still a cheerful, quiet and confident people willing to face trying circumstances with determination and grit?

Australia in 2018 is a very different place from 1915.

Waves of successive migration have brought new cultures to our shores and the Australian identity is now a much more complex thing with many faces.

But surely, at the core of what it means to be an Australian in the 21st century are those qualities displayed at Anzac Cove all those years ago.

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