Every country has a myth that informs its people and culture.
In Britain it was Empire. Now I think it’s Michael Caine, Twiggy and The Beatles.
In America it is the taming of the West.
In Australia it is a failed military campaign far from our shores against men fighting to defend the territory of their nation from a foreign invader.
We served alongside British, Indian and French soldiers who made up the majority of the numbers in the fighting force and in the casualties.
It is known as Churchill’s blunder of World War One – the Dardanelles campaign.
In Turkey on March 18, they remember fighting in the port of Canakkale from the same campaign where the Royal Navy was repulsed with similar reverence.
In Australia we remember the landings on April 25th at a place called Gallipoli.
Despite Australian forces serving in the Boer War at the time of our Federation.
Gallipoli was seen as the blooding of our newly formed nation.
Despite success from General Monash on the Western Front with significant victories late in the war or the cavalry charges at Beersheba, Gallipoli has always been remembered first and foremost.
Appropriate given that it was a failure, all the better to commemorate what is lost in war by not revelling in a victory. Sometimes I worry if we are forgetting.
In World War II Australia had a population of 7 million people and 1 million of them were in uniform.
Conscription saw many participate in Korea and Vietnam.
Now the military community is a very small part of the Australian population and yet its people have borne the brunt of long ongoing operational deployments in the past twenty years in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now the majority of Australians marvel at the myth of the ANZACs unable to fathom what they endured for us long ago and yet right now there are veterans who need their help as we lose more to suicide than we ever did to combat.
If it can be remembered for the right reasons, ANZAC Day still holds a lot of lessons for us every year and now more than ever as we face this global pandemic.
It is not without significance that ANZAC Day ceremonies were cancelled across the country.
There is no more sacred a day in this country.
Yet somebody got the bright idea for people to go down to the end of the driveway and the Light Up The Dawn campaign caught on.
I often don’t attend Dawn Services but this one I couldn’t miss. I got out of bed at 4:50am not too much off the mark from when the first boats were coming ashore in 1915.
Karen and I got dressed and made our way down to our driveway. It was still dark.
A woman walking by told us she was on her way to a nearby street where someone she knew was going to play The Last Post.
She said there would be plenty of room to maintain social distancing but if we stayed we could probably heart it from here. We thanked her.
Our next door neighbours came out with their young daughter. I saw him loading up something on a tablet and asked if he was looking for a service to play because I had one ready on my phone and was happy to share. We agreed but kept our distance.
Down the road I could see candles lit. A street over there were two families outside two houses.
I think in modern times we remain communities of people but on most ANZAC Days we travel many kilometres to be with those communities (family, friends, colleagues) together.
Now here we were engaging with our actual local community. It was nice.
Off in the distance a lone bagpiper played.
Then I hit the service to play on the RSL website on my phone prompted by a handy countdown clock on it.
Then we heard The Last Post being played that street over just like we were told we would.
I stood with my head bowed.
At the end we said good day and retreated to our apartment.
In our block of six nobody else had come out to join us.
On April 25 the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there wer 6,687 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20. There were 79 deaths with a daily increase of three.
In New Zealand there were 1,117 confirmed cases with a daily increase of three. The number of dead were 18 deaths with a daily increase of one. New Zealand had gone into lockdown on the 25th of March.
In Papua New Guinea as of 27MAY2020 there have been only eight confirmed cases and no deaths reported by the WHO.
In South Africa there 4,220 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 267. The number of dead 79 and with a daily increase of four.
In Germany there were 152,438 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,055. The number of dead 5,500 with a daily increase of 179.
In Italy there were 192,994 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,021. At this point 25,969 Italians had perished to COVID-19. The daily increase was 420. The number of days with increase of cases was thankfully becoming less and less.
In Japan there were 12,829 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 441. The number of dead 334 with a daily increase of 17.
In China there were 84,324 confirmed cases reported by the WHO with a daily increase of 12. The number of Chinese who had died at least 4,642.
In South Korea there were 10,718 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10. The number of dead 240.
The WHO have reported zero confirmed cases and zero deaths in North Korea.
In Malaysia there were 5,691 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 88. The number of dead 96 with a daily increase of one.
In Indonesia there were 8,607 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 396. The number of dead were 720 with a daily increase of 31.
In Vietnam there were 270 confirmed cases reported with a daily increase of two. So far no deaths have been reported.
In Zimbabwe there 29 confirmed cases with a daily increase of one. Four deaths have been reported.
In Namibia there were 16 confirmed cases and no deaths.
In Cambodia there were 122 confirmed cases and no deaths so far.
In Somalia there were 390 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 62. There were 18 deaths with a daily increase of two.
In Rwanda there were 176 cases with a daily increase of 22. No deaths have been reported so far.
In Timor-Leste there were 24 confirmed cases and so far no deaths have been reported.
There have been zero cases reported and no deaths in the Solomon Islands.
In Afghanistan on the 25th of April there were 1,463 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 237. There were 47 deaths with a daily increase of seven.
In Iraq there were 1,708 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 31. The number of dead were 86 deaths with a daily increase of three.
In Turkey there were 104,912 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,122. The number of dead 2,600 with a daily increase 109.
There is a quote often ascribed to the first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who served at Gallipoli.
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
Travelin’ Soldier by Bruce Robison
Performed by the Australian Army Band.
Vocals – Musician Rachel MacCallum
Backing vocals – Lance Corporal ‘AJ’ Johnson / Musician Jade O’Halloran
Violin and Mandolin – Musician Evan Patrick
Piccolo – Musician Sam Hennessy
Electric and Acoustic Guitars – Musician Sam McDonald
Bass – Lance Corporal Mansell Laidler
Drum Kit – Musician Aaron Austin
Recording by Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Bell / Sergeant James Duquemin / Corporal Justin Kennedy / Corporal Jaiden Redman.
Edited / mixed by Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Bell.