A different Anzac Day

Since we can’t have the marches and parades this year, let’s make Anzac Day a more contemplative experience. Whether you’re educating children at home or just wanting to make the day stand out from the humdrum of lockdown, let’s make it significant.

What is Anzac Day?

Anzac Day remembers the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) who died attempting to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Our men landed there on 25 April 1915. Thousands never returned to our shores: 8709 Australians and 2721 New Zealanders. We will remember them.

Since Anzac Day falls on Saturday this year, you’ll be at home. Rather than just watch speeches on TV, take some time to consider the context of the sacrifices these men made.

Anzac Day in context

The Gallipoli Campaign began two months earlier (17 Feb 1915). It involved soldiers from Britain, France, and Russia. With the conflict in the Balkan states, access to the Black Sea was crucial. The only route into the Black Sea was through the Dardanelles Straits. Whoever controlled the Gallipoli Peninsula controlled the Dardanelles. That’s why we invaded this region of northwest Turkey. And that’s why the Turks fought to hard to defend it.

After eleven months of horrific war, the Gallipoli Campaign was abandoned (9 Jan 1916). The losses were far more than the ANZACs we remember. Total allied losses are estimated at 250,000 men. A similar number of Turks died defending their homeland.

Contemplating conflict

This year, could we ask our children to remember, along with the thousands of ANZACs, the half million people who died in this conflict?

Provide some comparison for what that number means. It’s a quarter of the population of Perth. It’s more than the population of our national capital, Canberra.

How many families were affected by these deaths? Do you have family or friends whose lives were changed forever by the Gallipoli Campaign?

Six years ago, I met a man whose grandfather died in that conflict. He was Turkish. I wondered how it shaped his father, his aunts, his grandmother.

If we want our children to handle conflict better than we have, we must teach them to think from the other person’s point of view. Otherwise history repeats itself.

It isn’t enough just to honour the past. We want a better future for our children. Let’s invite them to the conversation about stretching for peace.


What others are saying

Mahalia Jackson, Down by the Riverside:

I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside

I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
I’m gonna study, study, war no more

I ain’t gonna study war no more
Ain’t gonna study war no more
I ain’t gonna study war no more

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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