Today (the 25th of April) is Anzac Day, the New Zealand (and Australian) equivalent to Remembrance Day in the UK or the Armistice in France. 97 years ago today the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed in Gallipoli at dawn, which marked the start of a campaign that, like so many of the campaigns of WWI led to huge losses of life on both sides.
Since WWII, Anzac Day is associated with remembering all those who have lost their lives in military service for their country. The commemorations began this past weekend with a projection of a 12-minute film of archival footage and photographs from the 24th New Zealand Infantry Battalion which was established during WWII, and served in North Africa, Greece and Italy. The film was dedicated to the 522 men who lost their lives serving in the battalion between 1940-1945, and was shown on Saturday and Sunday evening, projected onto the walls of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which was lit in poppy red for the occasion.
On Anzac Day itself, there is an outdoor Dawn Service held at the Auckland Cenotaph, which is just in front of the museum. I think that there are Dawn Services all across NZ (and Australia), but Auckland is the largest in the country, and I think it is also televised. This service is very much a military affair, with the flags of the three Forces flying on the Cenotaph. After the service, the little paper poppies that many people choose to wear are then pinned to crosses or just lain on the Cenotaph in memory of family members who have served. Later in the morning there is also a Civic Service where the military flags are replaced by the New Zealand and Australian flags and the Union Jack (because the ANZAC forces fought under the Union Jack), and wreaths are laid by community groups, religious groups, the various forces and many foreign representatives. Veterans are present at both services, and march alongside currently serving members of the NZ military, and this year there were members of the Australian Navy present as well. Throughout the day the museum is open to the public for free, and there are various tours through the war memorial galleries.
A friend and I decided to go to the Dawn Service, and we duly turned up at 5am in order to get a fairly good view of the proceedings, which started at around 5:30am. Despite the horrific time at which I had to roll out of bed (I’m not really a morning person), it was definitely worth it – I found the service very moving – and we actually spent most of the day at the museum. I don’t have any links to the NZ or Australian military whatsoever, but I wanted to go partially because I don’t really know anything about the ANZAC forces, and partially because it is an important occasion in the country that is now my home, but also as a mark of respect to those who sacrificed their lives in wars (both WWI and WWII) that didn’t really directly affect NZ (as far as I can tell). These young men died so dreadfully far from home, fighting for the freedom that I have always had the luxury of enjoying without question, and which I often take for granted. I apologise if this isn’t all that coherent (I was up at 4am after all…) but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. I’ve rambled more than enough by this point, so I’ll finish off this post with various photos from the memorial film projection over the weekend and today’s commemorations.
Lest we forget.