Friday, April 24, 2009
Lest We Forget
"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."
The date, April 25th, marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.
In 1915, in World War I, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, with the objective of removing Turkey from the war.
However, the bold plan failed, and troops were withdrawn after eight months of stalemate, heavy casualties suffered by both sides. Over 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers died.
News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.
Poppies have an enduring association with Anzac Day, dating back to the 1920s. Throughout New Zealand, people of all ages wear a red poppy as a mark of remembrance for the men and women who have died in the course of service for their country. Poppies made of light cloth or paper are also woven together to form wreathes which are laid at war memorials up and down the country.
The poppies are a vivid reminder of the sacrifice - the blood lost - in war. The connection between red poppies and fallen service personnel has its origins in the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century; red or Flanders poppies were the first flowers to bloom over the graves of soldiers in northern France and Belgium.
It was in the same region - the Western Front - a century later that red poppies were once more associated with those who died in war. Canadian medical officer John McCrae penned the famous and moving lines
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)