Last year my Anzac Day post “Lest We Forget” was a very personal one. This year when I started to think about what I would write, I asked myself “what are the things which remind me about Anzac day”?
When I started listing things I realised that most were symbols that had a more in-depth meaning. They provide clues to “understanding experiences by conveying recognizable meanings that are shared by societies”. In other words symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live, thus serving as the grounds upon which we make judgments and form opinions.
The first symbol was the word Anzac which the acronym comes from the initial letters of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, into which Australian and New Zealand troops were formed in Egypt before the landings at Gallipoli in April 1915.
The official historian, Charles Bean,wrote of a day in early 1915 when a staff officer arrived at HQ seeking a code name for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Having noticed ‘A&NZAC’ stencilled on cases and also rubber stamps bearing this mark, a clerk suggested:
‘How about ANZAC?’ Major Wagstaff proposed the word to the general, who approved of it, and ‘Anzac’ thereupon became the code name for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
(CEW Bean, The Story of ANZAC from the Outbreak of War to the End of the First Phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915 (Volume 1 of The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, pp. 124–25.)
As a proper noun, as well as an acronym, Anzac entered the vernacular of the diggers and Kiwis. At Gallipoli, they called their position, simply, Anzac; and the famous cove, Anzac Cove. They started referring to each other as Anzacs too. Eventually, any Australian or New Zealander who served in the war could be called an Anzac—although to them a true Anzac was a man who served at Gallipoli (later issued with a brass ‘A’ to stitch onto their unit colour patches). So Anzac should be used as both the noun and the acronym!
The Flanders Poppy
In Australia the red poppy is a commemorative flower of remembrance to reminds us of those died or suffered in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. It is also a symbol of both remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces community. The poppy is a well-known and well-established symbol, one that carries a wealth of history and meaning with it.
The Riderless Horse
For hundreds of years, the riderless horse has been used in military parades to remember fallen soldiers. It’s a symbol of cavalry or mounted troops who have died in battle. In Australia it is also called “the lone charger” the horse is usually saddled with a pair of boots set backwards in the stirrups.
A Sprig of Rosemary
Rosemary is an ancient symbol of fidelity and remembrance. The aromatic herb grows wild on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, where the original Anzacs served in World War I. Australians traditionally wear sprigs of rosemary as a symbol of remembrance on Anzac Day or Remembrance Day.
The Dawn Service
“The idea of a dawn service originates from the army’s ‘stand-to’ routine in World War I.
Since early times, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times to attack an adversary. Dawn’s misty shadows played tricks with the soldiers’ eyes, giving an attacker some advantage. World War I was no different.
In the trenches of Gallipoli and the Western Front, and on the front lines in the Middle East, a company’s orderly officer and sergeant woke those soldiers on active duty an hour or so before dawn. In the dark, the troops would fix their bayonets to guard the position against enemy attack, which was common at dawn.” The Anzac Portal
The Eternal Flame
Linked with the Dawn service the Eternal Flame, shown here at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, symbolizes a nation’s perpetual gratitude towards, and remembrance of, its war dead. A flame is widely accepted as a symbol of eternal life.
During World War I, some soldiers of the Australian Light Horse decorated their slouch hats with a plume of emu feathers. Mounted troops in Queensland began the tradition before the war started, and members of the Australian Armoured Corps still wear them today.
In 1915, during World War I, the Minister for Defence, Sir George Pearce, permitted all units of the Australian Light Horse to wear the plume. They called them ‘Kangaroo feathers’ at the time, as a joke on the unwary!
The Slouch Hat
Troops from Australia have been wearing felt slouch hats since the late 1800s. The hat was officially adopted by the Australian Army in 1903, not long after Federation. Soldiers wear the left side of the hat turned up to avoid catching their rifles on the hat’s brim during military parades.
The Rising Sun Badge
Proudly worn by soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Force in both World Wars, the ‘Rising Sun’ badge has become an integral part of the digger tradition. The distinctive shape of the badge, worn on the upturned side of a slouch hat, is commonly identified with the spirit of Anzac the camaraderie of Australian soldiers to fight for Australia, the Crown and the British Empire.
The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a monument dedicated to the services of an unknown soldier and to the common memories of all soldiers killed in war. After lying in state in King’s Hall in Old Parliament House, Canberra, the Unknown Australian Soldier was interred in the Hall of Memory on 11 November 1993. He was buried in a Tasmanian blackwood coffin, on which were placed a bayonet and a sprig of wattle. Soil from the Pozières battlefield in France was scattered in his tomb.
The Australian Flag
The five white stars of the fly of the flag represent the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross (or Crux) is the brightest constellation visible in the Southern Hemisphere and has been used to represent Australia and New Zealand since the early days of British settlement. The Union Jack in the upper left corner represents the history of British settlement. Below the Union Jack is a white Commonwealth, or Federation, star. It has seven points representing the unity of the six states and the territories of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Southern Cross is of particular interest to our family as a descendant of ours, Anne Duke, had a tent with her husband, inside the Eureka Stockade. She was one of the women who sewed the stars on the Eureka Flag, and was inside the Eureka Stockade during the battle. Anne’s brother Thomas Gaynor is said to have helped Peter Lalor after the battle. It was said that the pregnant Anne hid with Mrs Parker behind the logs around the tent, and heard the bullets striking the utensils in the tent. The clothes in Ann Duke’s tent were riddled with shot.
When I was growing up the Australian flag was very important to people, but it was something that you put up a flag pole and you saluted. It was something outside yourself to which you owed allegiance. Now, increasingly, the flag is something that you wear. You put it on a T-shirt and so it becomes part of you. This is a good thing as it should become part of us and on Anzac day, flown at half mast, it is very much part of our remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countrymen.
There are many others such as, the Ode, “Two-up”, “Digger”, the Wreath, “Honour Rolls”, Medals, The Minutes Silence, The Last Post, War Memorials, the “Salute”, and many more. However, the last two I want to talk about are shown clearly in this picture.
Lest We Forget
I am not going to talk about this in detail as I covered it in depth in my Remembrance Day Post of November 11th last year. The phrase ‘Lest we forget’ is from a line in an 1897 Rudyard Kipling poem, Recessional:
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Demonstrated in the picture above of the soldier carrying his wounded mate to safety. One of my earliest memories of Anzac day was sitting in the Kingsbury ( the suburb itself being named after Bruce Kingsbury VC) Primary School quadrangle, in the hot sun, to listen to the ABC radio broadcast of Simpson and his Donkey.
Hero of ANZAC
“Twenty-two years old, English-born and a trade union activist, John Simpson Kirkpatrick was an unlikely figure to become a national hero. Having deserted from the merchant navy in 1910, he tramped around Australia and worked in a variety of jobs. He enlisted in the AIF, expecting this would give him the chance to get back to England; instead, Private Simpson found himself at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915, and was killed less than four weeks later.
Simpson would not have made a good peacetime soldier, and he was recklessly independent in war. Instructed to recover and help the wounded he undertook this work enthusiastically. Famously, he used a small donkey to carry men down from the front line, often exposing himself to fire. The bravery of this “man with the donkey” soon became the most prominent symbol of Australian courage and tenacity on Gallipoli.
Although Simpson carried no arms and remains an enigmatic figure, the nature of his sacrifice made a vital contribution to the story of Anzac”. Australian War memorial
Other than the content of my post of last year, mentioned in the first paragraph, this is my first and most important memory and symbol of Anzac Day.