Thursday, April 24, 2014
Anzac Day is a pretty big deal down here. It's celebrated on the 25th of April every year. It's a day when we can celebrate and commemorate the sacrifice countless members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (hence the name ANZAC) have made in all conflicts. The date was set about after the First World War, but people who were involved in earlier engagements (the Sudan, the Boer War) could also take part.
It's celebrated across both Australia and New Zealand. In Melbourne since 1995 a lot of has centred around an annual football match played between Essendon and Collingwood. There was a game played on the day prior to 1995, but it wasn't set in stone that it had to be between those two clubs until then.
I've had at least 4 relatives that I know of who were involved in WW 1 and 2.
My great uncle Herb fought in Europe in the First World War. He was gassed and sent home. He went on to found a successful pottery business and later held a high ranking position in the Civilian Army during WW 2 (my uncle claimed that this was because his pottery actually supplied the figures that the war office used when staging mock table top battles).
My great uncle Tommy, who I never met, fought first in North Africa in the Second World War. He and his regiment were on the way home to Australia when they detoured to Java to help the Dutch who were trying to hold out against the Japanese. They were captured and he died on the infamous Burma Railroad.
Uncle Jack signed up fairly early in the Second World War. He left Melbourne on Melbourne Cup Eve and wound up in the Middle East. He bumped into his younger brother in Palestine when on leave. Uncle Jack signed up in Melbourne and his brother Jeff was living in Tasmania, so signed up there. Uncle Jack didn't even know Jeff had joined up until he met him in Palestine! Uncle Jack was one of the Rats of Tobruk. He returned from the North African campaign, retrained and went to Borneo. He never spoke much about the war, certainly not the conflict side of things. He was in the Ambulance Brigade and went through a harrowing time in Borneo when he and others kept going back into the jungle to ferry wounded out, while being shot at by Japanese snipers most of the time. He met a young anti aircraft machine gunner by the name of Frank Greenway and came home with him. He later married Frank's younger sister Valerie and had two children. He passed away in his 80's.
Uncle Frank joined up when he was only 17 by forging his father's signature on the papers. He went to Borneo where he met and became friends with one of the famed Rats of Tobruk; Jack Maddox. He too survived the conflict, returned home to Melbourne, married and raised 3 daughters. He also died in his 80's.
It's for them and all the others that went, and either did, or didn't return, that Anzac Day is a very special day on the Australian and New Zealand calendars.
Lest we Forget.