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Active Retirees : Active Retirees April-May 2012
Active RetireesTM | 29 The Anzac battle On 25 April Australians and New Zealanders are reminded of their shared military history. Ben Miller investigates the battle between history and politics that threatens to overwhelm the day: is national fervour distracting us from the real history of Anzac? T he gentle lapping of water is disturbed by the scrape of metal on sand. Itiscloseto5amon25 April 1915. Troops quietly creep forward, attempting to sneak into position. Suddenly, “bullets struck fireworks out of the stones along the beach”. Australia’s official war correspondent, Charles Bean, witnessed the horrific blood and gore of the battle at Gallipoli. Charles Bean knew the importance of the Gallipoli campaign for the fledgling nation of Australia. In his report he described the terrain of the first landing as “very much like the hills and gullies about the north of Sydney”; another site was described as “rather like a section of the Blue Mountains”. Alongside these Australian allusions, Bean formulated an enduring vision of the Anzacs, young men on a world stage who “fought fiercely and suffered heavily”. Remarkably, after days of heavy losses, many Anzacs put their fierceness aside and took a swim in the waters of the Aegean Sea. For Bean, these were no longer foreign waters; they “looked more like Manly on a bank holiday”. The Anzacs’ ability to relax amid such ferocity earned them a reputation: the easy-going larrikins who were brave when it counted. History or politics? To this day, Bean’s account is often cited in Anzac Day speeches. The phrase ‘Anzac spirit’ is synonymous with Australian spirit, values, character, and identity. Whether the phrase accurately portrays the Anzac diggers, or whether it has been altered and changed for political ends or to reflect modern values is a pressing question. The phrase ‘Anzac spirit’ suggests that something sacred has emerged from the Gallipoli campaign. Australia’s Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer Dave Ashley, finds it difficult to precisely define the phrase: “With Anzac spirit, you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t hear it, but you can certainly feel it. For those people who have been exposed to it, they will certainly know what it is.” Warrant Officer Ashley believes that Anzac Day is an occasion for Australians to focus on Anzac spirit. He recalls leading Australia’s Royal Regiment – the 6th Battalion – through the streets of Brisbane on Anzac Day 2001: “There must have been a million people there, from all walks of life. The crowd reflected the multicultural nature of our society. They all identified with the Anzac spirit.” The view of Anzac spirit as an important part of a united national psyche persists in the armed forces. Flight Lieutenant Liesl Franklin, one of few female pilots in Australia’s Air Force, focuses on the importance of Anzac spirit for military members, defining it as “a collective belief system among military members that is based on a past event and has since developed into something that brings people together to serve and stand up for what is right”. Like Warrant Officer Ashley, Flight Lieutenant Franklin believes that Anzac spirit helps unite diverse communities, but her view is more explicitly inter ventionist: “ it’s a positive tool for helping people integrate within our society.” Given that both sides of government now follow John Howard’s lead in investing heavily in Anzac Day, it » The Anzacs’ ability to relax amid such ferocity earned them a reputation: the easy- going larrikins who were brave when it counted.
Active Retirees Feb-March 2012
Active Retirees June-July 2012