With the increasingly strident nationalism that greets ANZAC Day each year, it is easy to forget what the ANZAC tradition celebrates. In almost nine months of entrenched fighting on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, Australian and New Zealand casualties reached 8587 killed in action and 19,367 wounded in the line of duty. Those Turks were defending their homeland from invasion.
Where so many died invading we now call “sacred ground”.
When the British Empire (which included the ANZACs) and French forces finally withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula, they had suffered 44,000 deaths. At least 85,000 Turkish soldiers died during the campaign.
That was in 1915. The same year, ANZAC forces suffered massive losses of 28,000 killed or wounded during the first seven weeks of the Battle of the Somme. So it comes as no surprise that during the following year Australians rejected conscription at a federal referendum — with troops in the front line trenches strongly voting “No” . Another referendum the following year rejected conscription by an even larger margin.
So I am a proud Aussie, not because this country has a penchant to celebrate the slaughter of those who we sent to invade or defeat, or the deaths of those this country sent to do such deeds. I am a proud Aussie because, in the face of such slaughter, a massive campaign was organised in this country against strengthening that war through conscription — and it won!
You have to see past the jingoistic bullshit on Anzac Day. You can’t afford to forget, that’s true, all those who died. [And my grandmother's first husband was among them.] But for whom did they die? Not for me.
If conscription had prevailed many more would have died. That’s really what’s worth celebrating.
Lest we forget.