Is there anything left to say about Anzac Day?

cenotaph

You couldn’t miss Anzac Day this year. If you watch TV at all, there are, what, 4 mini-series on the Anzac theme? There’s the big beer promotion, exhorting us to raise a glass for the diggers.   There was the brief, quickly abandoned grocery chain debacle. There are entrepreneurs, and shysters, flogging all sorts of Anzac merchandise. There’s the ballot to be at Anzac Cove on the big day.

And then there are the genuine outpourings of national pride, and the refreshing interest in remembering and celebrating a unique part of our history and heritage. I don’t feel qualified to say what the driver is for Australians as a whole about Anzac, although my own view is that it’s a desire to have something noble underpin our identity as a nation and as a people. Duty and sacrifice – it doesn’t come more noble than that.

What I can talk about, though, is the personal side of Anzac. We’ve found, this year, a deep interest in family links to the Anzac tradition. To help the Mountains feel their own connection to the Centenary, at Katoomba RSL we invited local people with relatives who had served in WW1 to be a special part of this year’s commemoration. If they didn’t know how to tap into the vast reservoir of WW1 service records now available on line, we helped them do it. These people now have detailed histories of the WW1 service of their forebears.

Like the two brothers who joined up together, had consecutive service numbers 2269 and 2270, and landed together at Gallipoli on the 4th of August 1915 – then who died together sometime between the 6th and 9th of August in the fierce fighting at Lone Pine, where more VCs were won in such a short time than in any other battle.

People have found stories of courage, and of sadness. I found the records of my great uncle Able Seaman Percy Pilkington, a sailor in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, thrown into the line on the Western Front, and killed by a sniper at the Battle of the Canal du Nord, just 6 weeks before the Armistice.

Can I indulge in my own view on the meaning of Anzac? I’ve never been in the Australian Defence Force. But I am the father of a serving soldier. I am the husband of a former long-serving RAAF officer. I have had 2 fathers-in-law who were career soldiers, who served in WW2 and Korea. I know what it’s like to get the phone call, telling me my son has been deployed to do an evac in some strife-torn hotspot, or has been sent on yet another peace-keeping mission; leaving me proud but anxious.

Anzac for me, then, is this: the opportunity to remember, to acknowledge, to be proud – of the people who serve, who are prepared to put themselves in harm’s way, who put our safety and security ahead of theirs.

Duty and sacrifice. Lest we forget.

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