This past weekend (April 25) was ANZAC Day in New Zealand. Being an American, I’ve learnt all about what ANZAC is and what the day means to New Zealanders over the nearly two years I’ve been here now.
A short lesson for those unfamiliar. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and was a joint force created during World War I. On April 25, 1915, the ANZACS landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey with the aim of capturing the Dardanelles. The ANZACS were unsuccessful…thousands lost their lives in that battle--87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire which includes 2,779 New Zealanders and 8,500 Australians. About a fifth of those New Zealanders who served on Gallipoli were killed. It’s had an incredible impact on this small nation, as you can imagine. It is also significant in New Zealand’s history as it’s when they first are getting a sense of themselves as a country.
ANZAC Day commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women. This year, being exactly 100 years since Gallipoli has been extremely poignant. The day is marked with a commemoration service at dawn and a parade later in the morning.
Recently I was talking to my grandmother in the States and telling her about our long weekend and our plans to do some more travel. “It’s ANZAC weekend, Grandma” I told her. “What weekend?” And I got David on the phone to explain and give a little history lesson from WW I. After she heard how many New Zealanders died and what a tragedy it was (at Gallipoli), she said, “War is really stupid. We should get all the world leaders together in one room and let them fight it out… and really quickly they would find another way besides killing each other to work out their differences.”
Well said, Grams. I couldn’t have summed up my view any clearer.