Yesterday was ANZAC Day.
It was the centenary of the disastrous invasion of Turkey at Gallipoli. Troops from the UK, France Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada attempted to secure a sea route to their ally, Russia by gaining control of the Dardanelles. There are many opinions that suggest this calamitous venture was the trigger point from which both Australia and New Zealand began to think of themselves as having an identity separate from that of their mother country, England.
There are those who characterize this centennial commemoration as a “glorification of war”. I vigorously reject and repudiate that label. It is not a glorification to mourn the lost, to remember their suffering and celebrate their courage. It is not a glorification to remember and honour those on all sides who died or were injured doing what they believed to be right for their country.
Dawn is not my natural habitat, but it seemed proper to be at the dawn observances. In an ordinary year, about a thousand might turn out at the Lower Hutt Cenotaph. This time, I estimate about 5,000. I read that there were over 40,000 at the new national memorial at Pukeahu Park in Wellington.
The honor guard around the cenotaph was provided by youngsters of the cadet forces who marched smartly though the crowd to take their places at each corner and to stand motionless in the traditional position with downcast eyes and resting on reversed arms.
The ceremony took the well-worn format of ANZAC services throughout Australasia, and at the appropriate time, as the Last Post was sounded, and the flag lowered to half mast, the crowd was completely still.
In the darkness of the chilly morning, I took my hand-held pictures at very slow speed without flash. This picture seems to capture some of the essence of te occasion, and has had positive feedback in the “impressionist” group. Some will just see a blurred picture. I see an ever diminishing body of ordinary men and women, courageous heroes all.
In the afternoon, I visited the Salamanca Lawn in Kelburn where there is a field of remembrance containing one white cross for each of the 866 soldiers from the Wellington region who died in WWI.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.*
* For the fallen by Lawrence Binyon