ANZAC Day

Possum is 5 years and 11 months
Bandicoot is 3 years and 9 months
Little Princess is 1 year and 3 months (15 months)

25 April is ANZAC Day.  It is the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, classified by many as our country’s coming of age.  For those who don’t know, the battle for the beach at Gallipoli was early in WWI.  The allied troops were invading the Ottoman Empire.  Australia and New Zealand were called to send their men as part of the British Empire.  Their first assignment was this landing.  Of course, the location given for the landing was incorrect (not a lot of respect lost for the Colonials anyway), and the troops were all but obliterated.  Those that managed to land were required not much later to withdraw through the same danger.

The really amazing thing from all this is, the Turks consider us brothers because of this battle, despite the fact we were fighting against each other.  How amazing are they?

ANZAC Day is a pretty important public holiday around these parts.  It is treated with more reverence than any other, even Easter or Christmas, or so it seems to me.  Perhaps because it is secular, perhaps because it is recent history, perhaps because the World Wars are so much a part of the collective conscious… I don’t really know.  Whatever it is, I have issues with ANZAC Day.

There are a few things:

  • We were  invading another country.  Not even in the modern so-called liberating army sense.  Straight out invasion.
  • We celebrate a national day when we were fighting for another country?
  • War is plain stupid.  I do not think that these people were heroes.

Of course, these ideas are the kind to get me linched.  But I hate ANZAC Day.

My Dad was a WWII veteran.  He saw active service, even though he never officially left Australia.  (He was involved in several covert missions, in cooperation with American troops against the Japanese.).  Because of this, he did not get the Returned Serviceman’s care of most of his peers.  He did not have the same respect as his brothers-in-law.  He hated ANZAC Day because of the memories it aroused (this was before anyone knew about post traumatic stress.). I hate living through ANZAC Day with him.

For me as a child it was a case of watching silently as my father sank further and further into his demons.   My Mum wasn’t much better.  He always sort of wat he’d the arch on TV, in a. Restless, moody, cloud.  We would have to sit in silence, alongside.  ANZAC  Day was not a day for children.  While we had the day off school, we could not play, or do anything happy or fun.  It was jolly awful.  And it should be.  War is jolly awful.

As a child I would have done anything to be away from that house and that experience.  I remember it with horror.  The horror of what happens to young men stolen by war.

I once asked my father why he didn’t march.  Perhaps I thought the comradery would do him good.  Perhaps I thought it would mean that I wouldn’t need to watch.  He didn’t want to march.  For him, his own memories were awful enough, he didn’t need to share anyone else’s.  Also, many of his platoon were from interstate, so there were not many he knew in our town (probably to share his shame at not serving overseas).

This year we aren’t just dealing with our history, but our kids are in the public domain at school.  Bandicoot came home and presented me with a `beautiful flower’ that he had made at preschool for me.  He is right.  It is a beautiful flower.  It is a red poppy.  (Actually it is a really nice preschooler craft – 4 paper petals, a simple paper centre and a little magnet on the back.)   Possum was to take a long stemmed flower to school for the class wreath.  I forgot.  To be fair, it was the first day back from  school holidays.  To be honest, though, it was not my priority.  I could have walked back to school with a flower, but I used the excuse that it was one of those exercises in disappointment that I am supposed to engineer for Possum’s anxiety.

This year was okay.  We made it through without sticky questions.  They will come.  I am sure that over time it will be one of those issues the kids will grapple with as they try to balance Mum and Dad’s philosophy vs that of their friends.  I have no intention of introducing them to war before I need to do so.  It may come soon.  Bandicoot’s godfather is in the army and may yet tour Afghanistan.  It may not.  In the meantime we will continue to work on instilling principles of kindness, sharing, love, non-judgement and peaceful negotiation.

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I haven’t discussed DH’s childhood experiences.  We haven’t really discussed them, but our attitudes are similar.  I know that his father was a chaplain during WWII.  I can’t imagine he had an easy war.  He is second generation Australian ( I think!  Might only be first…) of German heritage.  I know that many were interned for less, here.

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