Lest We Forget

Today is ANZAC Day. I didn’t get up early to go to the dawn service or catch the bus to see the parade in Hobart but the above are some photos that I took of the 2015 march.

I don’t think of the march as a celebration of war so much as a day that we remember the fallen.

Years ago when I used to go Dawn Service and to see the march in Adelaide regularly I used to enjoy seeing the pleasure the veterans got out of seeing old friends that maybe they didn’t see very often and their determination to go the distance even though they were old and maybe disabled.

It was once felt that the ANZAC tradition would die once the men and women who served in the world wars were gone but instead it seems to have become bigger. Of course,  we’re never going to run out of conflicts to lose soldiers in.

I just hope that young people are commemorating the day for the right reasons. Many young Australians like to visit Turkey and spend ANZAC Day at Gallipoli but it was not meant to be about rock concerts and selfies. It’s a time to be solemn, reflect and do our best to make sure that no more young men have to die in a war.

Dark clouds looming over the Cenotaph in Hobart.
Don’t we have a lot of euphemisms for War?

Battlefield Tourism

 

Villers-Bretonneux mémorial australien (tour et croix) 1.jpg
By Markus3 (Marc ROUSSEL) – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Introduction:

A friend of mine sent me an article from The Guardian about the opening of the Sir John Monash Centre near Villers-Bretonneux on ANZAC Day. It was an interesting piece. You can read it here.

It made me think about the way that many museums these days have become entertainment venues rather than places of learning and about whether it is really right to do that on a battlefield. I actually tapped out the beginning of this post on my phone while waiting for my ride to the Op Shop and finished it here at home later after I’d done some further reading. You may not agree with my take on the subject but that’s OK you don’t have to.

The Sir John Monash Centre:

I recently read about the new museum in Villers-Bretonneux in France which commemorates Australian soldiers killed in battle there in World War 1. It is called the  Sir John Monash Centre. The museum is said to be an experience and cost an enormous amount of money. A hundred million dollars in fact. It has been built adjacent to the original museum which was built in the 1930’s. My question is why? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to give the original museum a facelift and spend all that money on projects that benefited victims of wars and their families?

In fact the Australian National Memorial has  recently been updated apparently so did we need to spend another hundred million dollars on an “Interpretive Centre”?

Here is a description of the original museum.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL MEMORIAL

Designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and inaugurated on the 22nd July 1938 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, this imposing memorial was the last of the Great War national memorials to be built in France or Belgium. The white stone memorial is composed of a central tower, two corner pavilions and walls that bear the names of 11,000 missing Australian soldiers who died in France. In front of the memorial is a Commonwealth Military Cemetery. The top of the tower provides panoramic views of the Somme countryside the Australians helped defend in 1918 and an orientation table signals the direction of other Australian sites of remembrance.

At the bottom of the staircase, a large wall-plaque displays a map of the Western Front and the emplacement of the five Australian divisional memorials in France and Belgium: 1st Division at Pozières, 2nd Division at Mont St-Quentin, 3rd Division at Sailly-le-Sec, 4th Division at Bellenglise and the 5th Division at Polygon Wood in Belgium.

Please don’t think that I’m being disrespectful to the ANZAC’s . I am just cynical enough to believe that this is more about tourist dollars than history. I do think that these men should be remembered and a museum telling their story is a good way to do that. I don’t think it should be viewed as an entertainment venue. Do people really have to be entertained by everything they see? Can’t they just reflect and maybe learn something?

This is what the same website says about the Sir John Monash Centre

http://www.somme-battlefields.com/memory-place/australian-national-memorial-sir-john-monash-centre-villers-bretonneux

 

THE SIR JOHN MONASH CENTRE

In April 2018 a new interpretation centre about Australia’s role in the Great War will open at Villers-Bretonneux. The Sir John Monash Centre tells Australia’s story of the Western Front in the words of those who served. Set on the grounds of the Australian National Memorial and adjacent to the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, the Sir John Monash Centre is one of the key sites of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, and establishes a lasting international legacy of the Australian Centenary of Anzac 2014-2018.
This cutting-edge multimedia centre reveals the Australian Western Front experience through a series of interactive multimedia installations and immersive experiences. The SJMC App, downloaded onto each visitor’s personal mobile device, acts as a «virtual tour guide» over the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, the Australian National Memorial and the Sir John Monash Centre. The experience is designed so visitors gain a better understanding of the journey of ordinary Australians – told in their own voices through letters, diaries and real-life images – and connect with the places they fought and died. A visit to the Sir John Monash Centre is a moving experience that leaves a lasting impression.

Many museums now offer a multimedia type experience to the point where it is almost impossible to learn anything unless you download the app or carry the museum’s device so you can listen to commentary and descriptions. I have done this at one or two museums and galleries recently and personally I find it annoying. I like to take my time, read, look and most of all keep away from the crowds so I don’t always take the set route through a museum but may skip a crowded area and go back to it later.

Back in 1990 David and I visited St Petersburg, Russia. It was still known as Leningrad then. We were not doing a tour so some of the things we visited we were not able to fully understand. However we visited the memorial to the people who died in the Siege of Leningrad in World War Two, or as the Russians called it. “The Great Patriotic War”. Although we could not read the information the long lists of names and the solemn atmosphere moved us as much as if we had it all explained to us. It did probably help that we both had read about those terrible years prior to our visit. I don’t know if that memorial has received an upgrade since 1990. If it has I hope it has not been turned into a circus because that would be wrong.

 

Момумент защитникам Ленинграда 1.jpg
By KoMiKorOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

I’d like to think that this huge some of money has been spent purely to educate but I can’t help feeling it’s more about  politics and making money and I can’t help wondering if it was really necessary. I have included links to the articles that I read while working on this post and perhaps after reading some of them you will see how I arrived at my point of view.

Further Reading:

https://www.battlefield-tours.com.au/html/villers-bretonneux-2018.html

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/100m-monash-centre-to-form-entry-point-to-france-s-western-front-20180413-p4z9cg.html

http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/money-monash-and-motive-analysing-a-project-in-france-i/

http://www.coxarchitecture.com.au/project/sir-john-monash-centre/

http://www.afr.com/news/world/sir-john-monash-centre-brings-attention-back-to-australias-great-commander-20180419-h0z0l7

Lest We Forget – An ANZAC Day Post

Today is ANZAC Day, the day that Australians and New Zealanders commemorate those who died in wars.  One hundred years ago today Australian and New Zealand forces landed at what is now known as ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Many were volunteers who had joined up because they felt it was their duty to serve king and country or who craved travel and adventure. They were men from all walks of life and for many it would be their first time away from their home country. Some were boys of fifteen and sixteen who had lied about their age in order to enlist. In this early phase of World War One most of the troops probably believed that the campaign would be short.

Tragically they could not have been more wrong. The Turkish army was much stronger than had been anticipated and from April to December the troops lived, fought from and died in the trenches before finally being withdrawn. They were short of food, water, medical supplies and even winter clothing.

Australian casualties for the Gallipoli campaign amounted to 26 111, comprising of 1007 officers and 25 104 other ranks. Of these, 362 officers and 7 779 men were killed in action, died of wounds or succumbed to disease. Nine Victoria Crosses were awarded to soldiers in Australian units. The total New Zealand casualties were 2,779 dead and 5,212 wounded.

In military terms the Gallipoli Campaign was considered a failure so it may seem strange to some that this is the event that we choose to remember. Australia and New Zealand were young nations when World War One broke out. Australia had only become a single nation in 1901. Although the war was in far away Europe Australians and New Zealanders believed that they should support Britain “the mother country” and her allies.  As the stories of what happened at Gallipoli began to be told the legend of ANZAC was born. We take this day not to celebrate or to glorify war but to remember those who did not come home.

ANZAC Day begins with the Dawn Service held in cities and towns all over our two countries. Almost every town that sent men to war has it’s memorial to those who served. Although I was unable to get to the service this year I have attended Dawn Service in the past and it is very moving. The poem “In Flanders Fields” is usually recited as is The Ode which is the fourth stanza of a poem called “For the Fallen” by the English writer Laurence Binyon. This is how it goes:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Poppies "planted" in Parliament Square Gardens, Hobart
Poppies “planted” in Parliament Square Gardens, Hobart

It’s a solemn ceremony but at most RSL (Returned & Services League) clubs it is followed by a much less solemn breakfast. One of the traditions is to fortify yourself from the cold with coffee laced with rum.

Later in the morning there are commemorative marches ranging from huge ones in large cities like Sydney and Melbourne to small gatherings in little towns like Geeveston. I had never been to the Hobart ANZAC March before so this year I decided that I would go.  I hadn’t been to a big march since leaving Adelaide and one thing that I noticed was that there are even fewer veterans of the world wars now. I am old enough to remember seeing the World War One veterans march but the last Gallipoli veteran, Alex Campbell, a Tasmanian, died in 2002.  Now even my parents generation, the World War Two veterans are few. It’s now common for descendants of veterans to march in honour of their relative wearing their service medals on the right hand side instead of the left.

I remember that at the marches I attended in Adelaide there was an element of larrikinism present as old mates met for reunions and laughed and joked with each other. After the march was over there would be reunion lunches in hotels all over Adelaide as well as at the RSL clubs. As Aussies can’t be expected to be serious all day another ANZAC Day tradition is that it is the one day of the year when it is legal to play “Two Up”. Football is another tradition with a big AFL match always held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The Hobart March seemed a little more serious than those I remembered. The rain stayed away and a good crowd turned out to applaud the veterans and the serving men and women who marched. The crew of the HMAS Canberra were out in force. I don’t know if it was the whole ship’s complement of 500 but it looked like it.

Here are some images that I took at the march. I tried to concentrate on the veterans faces  but of course I had to include the horses and dogs too.

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Below I have included some links for those who like history but may not be familiar with the ANZAC tradition or who would like to know more about the military campaign. I can’t possibly explain it as well as the experts can.

Further Reading:

http://www.army.gov.au/Our-history/History-in-Focus/WWI-Gallipoli

https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac-tradition/#why

https://www.awm.gov.au/ – The Australian War Memorial

http://www.lighthorse.org.au/resources/military-stories-misc/the-waler…-a-breed-of-horses-legend-or-fact

http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/04/25/australians-play-traditional-game-of-two-up.html