Here in paradise, there’s no sunshine today, and that matches my mood. For today is ANZAC Day, a special day for Australians and New Zealanders, and a special day for me too.
Very few of the original ANZACs remain with us now. They were the young men – boys really – of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who marched off to defend ‘the motherland’ at the beginning of the First World War, only to be pinned down on the cliffs of Gallipoli, pawns in a game of politics being conducted by London. It was a disastrous campaign, ending in massive casualties and ignominy, yet over the intervening decades, ANZAC has come to represent the maturation of the young nation of Australia (barely fifteen years old itself at the time), to the point that young people today see it as the first step in real independence from Great Briton. And there’s something to be said for that.
For my father, and his generation, survivors of the Second World War, ANZAC Day was the day on which they honoured their fallen mates, allowed themselves to remember the things a man should never have to remember, and to celebrate their lucky escapes.
Even at 90, Papa would polish his medals, and attend the service at the war memorial. But now, as for many of us, the Lest We Forget has become more about shame – the shame that old men are still sending young boys off to fight wars they barely understand.