For most of this month, I've been talking about the Second World War. But today, I want to talk about the war that came before it - a war that was so terrible and destructive that when it ended, it was named 'the war to end all wars'. Except, of course, it didn't end all wars. Twenty years later, the world went to war yet again.
Today is ANZAC Day, when Australians and New Zealanders commemorate the Gallipoli landings during the First World War. On this day in 1915, Allied forces (made up of British, French, Indian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers and marines) attempted to invade what is now Turkey. The military operation, planned by Winston Churchill, was a complete disaster for the Allies. The fighting dragged on for eight months before the Allied troops were evacuated. Half a million men on both sides of the battle were killed or injured – felled by bombs and machine gun fire, by the epidemic of dysentery that spread through the trenches, and by exposure to the harsh weather.
Today, Australians remember the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings with dawn services, parades of war veterans, flags at half mast, wreaths laid on memorials, red poppies and sprigs of rosemary. (At left is a photo of my balcony's rosemary bush, which flowered this year in time for ANZAC Day.) Some people will also get drunk, play two-up, watch the ANZAC Day football matches and enjoy having a day off work. For some, it's a day to remember friends or relatives who were killed during wartime. For others, it's a time to protest against Australia's involvement in contemporary wars.
What does ANZAC Day mean to you?