Friday, April 25, 2014

A solemn day

Today is Anzac Day, the day we remember those lost in the futility of war. Anzac Day became a day of national commemorations in the 1920s and right around the country dawn services are held at war memorials. I have said before, if you have never been to a dawn service, make sure to do it once in your lifetime. Melbourne's dawn service, held at the Shrine of Remembrance, is the most moving public event I have ever attended. The dead silence and palpable emotion of thousands as the illuminated piper at the top of the Shrine as he sounds the bugle when the sun rises is beyond description.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. Around 10,000 who entered a ballot will gather at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, Turkey where so many Australians were slaughtered on the beaches in WWI. While we don't have any who fought in WWI left now, some of their widows are still alive and for this anniversary of the beginning of WWI, the government has offered them a free passage and accomodation to the ceremony. I should hope for someone to look after them too.

While Perth is certainly no where near the size of Sydney or Melbourne, this year in Kings Park 50,000 people will gather for Australia's largest dawn service.

I believe the largest regional service in Victoria is held at the seaside town of Torquay, which we just happened to visit at Easter.



I was only Nineteen, by Redgum with John Schumann. Later thought: Some of Australians who were killed during WWI Gallipoli were not nineteen, but barely sixteen, kids sent off as cannon fodder. Italics in the lyrics below by me for clarity for non Australians.


Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal,
(1t was long march from cadets).
The Sixth Battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card…
We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left.

And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay;
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean;
And there's me in my slouch hat, with my SLR (rifle) and greens…(uniform)
God help me, I was only nineteen.

From Vung Tau riding Chinooks to the dust at Nui Dat,
I'd been in and out of choppers now for months.
But we made our tents a home, VB (beer) and pin-ups on the lockers,
and an Asian orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And night time's just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.

A four week operation, when each step could mean your last one on two legs:
it was a war within yourself.
But you wouldn't let your mates down 'til they had you dusted off,
so you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

Then someone yelled out "Contact"', and the bloke behind me swore.
We hooked in there for hours, then a God almighty roar;
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon: -
God help me, he was going home in June.

1 can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies (cans of beer) in the Grand Hotel
on a thirty-six hour rec. leave in Vung Tau.
And I can still hear Frankie lying screaming in the jungle.
'Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

 And the Anzac legends didn't mention mud and blood and tears,
and stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn't even feel…
God help me, I was only nineteen.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And why the (tv) Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me,
I was only nineteen.

19 comments:

  1. A perfect song to listen to this morning. Heartbreaking and real.
    At nineteen they were old. Those that lived.

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    1. EC, it gives me shivers when I hear it.

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  2. Andrew.Anzac Day reminds me Memorial Day in my country when we have commemorate all who had lost their lives in WWI and WWII. It's definitely a solemn day.The song is great but what a pity a lot of young people were killed but I believe they RIP.

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    1. Gosia, yes, very much the same thing. Too many people killed.

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  3. Wonderful song alway brings me to tears, I was young at this time and knew boys that went to war and came back changed or not at all and they didn't come home to a big welcome like they did in the world wars.
    Merle.............

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    1. Merle, no, and not even the RSL welcomed them to join their ranks.

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  4. It's a pity the commemoration of war has got so mixed up with patriotism isn't it? Throw in a bit of militarism to boot and it gets a bit too close to glorification of war for my liking.

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    1. I am with you totally. While commemoration of our beautiful boys is sorely needed, celebration of the glories of war is not. In fact I would hope that the mass slaughter of Australian and New Zealand lads is only acceptable if and when we remember the mass slaughter of lads from the other nations involved - the French, British and Germans at Fromelles, Israelis at Beersheba, Turks at Gallipoli etc.

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    2. Has it become mixed with patriotism Marcellous? I suppose it has in some ways. I do think it stirs genuine emotion in people.

      I agree with you on the last part Hels. We should remember those our armies killed.

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    3. Andrew, I am surprised you should have missed the mixing up. It goes right back to C E W Bean and the ANZAC legend but it saw a revival in the Howard years, though I don't think it is just to do with Howard, I think it also has something to do with a historical point receding beyond living memory. If it wasn't mixed up with our national baptism of fire we could make do with 11 November, which in recent years has rather suffered in Australia by comparison.

      Admittedly this is circumstantial, but I think it is telling that so much of the budget for ANZAC day is a military one (it started with recruiting drives in WWI) and even this ANZAC day I spotted a few recruitment ads in the mass media which were hitching a ride on the occasion's trailing clouds of glory,

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    4. Marcellous, it was certainly an opportune time to announce the spending of so much money on fighter jets.

      Yes, I appreciate what the government and forces try to do and get out of it but I really think that washes over most people. I may well be wrong.

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  5. "High Riser" has been included in Friday's Sites To See for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2014/04/fridays-sites-to-see_25.html

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    1. That's very kind Jerry. The photo looks better on your blog than mine, haha.

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  6. I hate that song. I have always hated it and will always hate it. My first husband told me he lied about his age to join and went to Vietnam at 18, came back at 20 mentally wrecked, (saw his brother get shot, got shot himself), and I met him 6 months later. Years of nightmares, no fireworks ever, jumpy at the slamming of a car door etc.

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    1. Absolutely awful River but the song helps those who never had a personal connection to understand.

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  7. It sounds like a very moving service. Reminiscent of Memorial Day here.

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    1. Keith, I expect every country has a day such as this, and ours is not exceptional, but oddly, it is becoming a growing event.

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  8. Please god don't let the young men and women of today have to go through a WW experience.. will someone please shoot Putin now!

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    1. Grace, I think the Ukraine is normally a fairly civilised place and it is sad to see how things have all gone so wrong. Yes, taking out Putin would a good thing.

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