“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.”  Laurence Binyon 1914
Anzac Day is very emotive for many Australians and I imagine New Zealanders.I’ve had a difficult time writing this piece, trying to understand and unwind legend and myth from politics and history and figure out what makes this day so important to Australians.

When I grew up in Canada I commemorated Remembrance Day on November 11, and later when I lived in Europe, VE Day as well.

It turns out Anzac Day is emotional for me too. So much of the literature and media coverage and even common knowledge has focused on Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli that I didn’t realize anyone else was there. There seems to be a lot of talk about remembering only Australians and this has left me feeling like, well, I don’t belong.Maybe I’m over-reacting. My father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force, my great uncle was a fighter pilot in World War II, one great-grandfather fought at Vimy in WWI and the other one was at the Somme. My husband’s uncle was killed just before the end of WWII.

But what I’ve learned this morning is that some Australians view Anzac Day more broadly. The principal of my daughters’ school said it best: We remember Australian and New Zealand soldiers and all the others who have fought for us so we could live in peace.


ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Anzac Day commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on 25 April 1915 at Gallipoli.They were part of British, Indian, French and Newfoundland troops who landed at five beaches at Cape Helles. The Anzacs overshot their landing and ended up facing cliffs. The campaign was a mismanaged disaster, similar to many campaigns in World War One.

Over eight months of fighting at Gallipoli, about 21,000 British, 10,000 French, 8700 Australians, 2700 New Zealanders, 1550 Indians and 49 Newfoundlanders were killed. More than 80,000 Turkish were also killed.

There seems to be this idea that Anzac forces were used by British commanders as ”cannon fodder’’.  I can’t find evidence of this.

From what I see, everyone was ”cannon fodder’’. Even the Aboriginal soldiers, who were there and who are only now starting to be recognized for there efforts, weren’t recognized as Australian citizens until 1967.

Here’s what I think.Australia had just gained independence from Britain in January 1901. This was the first opportunity the new country had to forge its own history around military involvement. As one friend said: it was a young fresh-faced country and communities of young men set off for Gallipoli with a sense of adventure and idealism.

No one knew how horrific the trench warfare was going to be, nor how underprepared the Allies were. Imagine losing all the young men from a country town or suburb. That’s a huge sacrifice for something happening on the other side of the world. And it was a huge loss of innocence.

Could it be that this catastrophe and loss of innocence brought people together with a sense of belonging?

In the end, does it matter which days we choose to remember? Does it matter if we call it Anzac Day or Remembrance Day or Armistice Day?As long as we remember — and we remember in the inclusive spirit of community and peace — isn’t that what it’s all about?

Tomorrow I’ll be walking with my family and the rest of our children’s school to our local memorial. I’ll remember the soldiers who died at Gallipoli and the Somme and all the other battles of both world wars. I’ll remember all the people and veterans who died for my freedom or were killed in wars or peacekeeping missions.

Not just soldiers, everyone. Women in the French Resistance of WWII, civilians in Iraq, children in Syria and all the others.