Today, 25th April, 2012 is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand - our repective day of remembrance for both countries. It commemorates the landing of soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli, Turkey on this day in 1915 to fight their opening battles in WWI in countries far away from our peaceful, small nations situated in the Sothern Pacific Ocean.
My maternal grandfather, Private John Bermingham SPELLS, joined the call to action in 1914 and joined the 3rd Light Horse in South Australia, sailing on the s.s. 'Pt Lincoln' on 22nd October 1914 as part of A Squadron, with his horse. At that stage, Australia, a peace loving country, had been a nation since 1901 but our young men didn't baulk when the call of duty came.
343,250 men from Australia embarked for overseas action during WWI, with 50,000 deaths on Active Service, with a further 166,819 men wounded or gassed. This massive loss of the cream of young Australian men in such a young and new nation was devasting and many families mourned the loss of sons, husbands and lovers who now lie forever buried in far off war cemetaries.
Farmer, miner, student, teacher, labourer, and man of letters, horseman and engineer, men and women of all religions and political thought, formed an unbreakable line of unity, a common face, to an enemy sworn to subjugate them to his will. The story of ANZAC is not one of a great military victory; it is not a record which glorifies war; it is simply the focal point in our nation's history which established for all time the dedication of Australia and Australians to the principles of national integrity.
Win or lose, my grandfather and his countrymen went into battle side by side with our New Zealand neighbours to play their part with Britain's Allies in demonstrating that, whatever the cost, free men and women had no alternative to the proposition that "if they were to preserve our way of life, they should choose to die on their feet rather than live on their knees."
ANZAC stood, and still stands today, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefullness, fidelity, comradeship (mateship) and endurance that will never accept defeat. 97 years on, this is the spirit that Australian service men and women carry with them as pack to their heritage as they face enemies in far off places around the world.
"Lest we forget. Their name liveth forever more." Rudyard Kipling