“Soon, however, … bullets were almost continuously splashing into it. I dug on until I groaned and cursed in the very agony of my endeavour. My limbs ached, and my temple throbbed; I was scorched with thirst, without the wherewithal to slake it. …. For myself, I was done, and in the shallow dugout lay gasping and sick.”
Percy Williams – Canterbury born soldier of the Australian & New Zealand Division – Gallipoli
In the torn up ground between the muddy cold trenches and the barb-wired no man’s land, a beautiful red petaled flame pushed up through the clumps of ground; the Papaver Rhoeas, a common weed known all over Western Europe. These flowers offered the only living colour in a world that had slipped into a darkish hell on earth. It was the Poppy – the flower of sleep, peace and death – now the symbol of the fallen solider.
Before the sun rose on 25th April 1915, thousands of young Australian and New Zealand lads were on the sea, scared and living every second as they had never before. They were about to do their part in Winston Churchill’s campaign to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey resulting in the opening of the Black Sea to the allied forces of World War I. Our boys would have to defeat the Ottoman Empire.
It would take the deaths of 18,000 Kiwis and 60,000 Australians over the following 8 months to prove the campaign a failure. What did rise from the ashes of this historic battle was the legacy of the Anzacs – the men of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps. They did us all proud.
Even as our still young nation held its pained breathe for any news of its sons, it paled in comparison to the pain of the soldiers who survived the first landing at Anzac Cove. By 30th April, just 5 days into the battle, the first ever service in the memory of those fallen was held, acknowledged even by those serving in Egypt.
A year later, the first Anzac Day – a national day of remembrance – was acknowledged with a dawn service – as that had been the time of the landing – sport activities and fundraising in the shape of gambling. In 1920, Anzac Day became a public holiday.
As time has crept on, Anzac Day has stretched on further than the beach of Gallipoli. It is more common these days to remember all of our fallen, whichever battle in both in World Wars I & II.
We will never forget.
“I know I speak on behalf of all New Zealanders when I thank you for the contribution you have made to our peace and security…their sacrifice, like the sacrifices of our servicemen and women in years before, will not be forgotten. Our servicemen and women help New Zealand play an important part in ensuring that we live in a stable, fair and just world…”
Prime Minister John Key to the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association National Council ~ 15th October 2012