April 25th this year commemorates the dawn landings of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp at Gallipoli on the Turkish peninsula in 1915. At Hornsby Cenotaph this morning there were record crowds, filling Peats Ferry Road to mark the anniversary.
The dawn landings were start of a long and protracted battle for the Turkish Peninsula and one of Australia’s first major operations as a federated nation. This was one of the first times Australia operated on the world stage under its own identity. Australia had only been a federated nation for thirteen years.
The bloody battle at Gallipoli lasted eight months and cost more than 8,000 Australian lives.
One hundred years later as I stand in the cool of the pre-dawn in Hornsby I am amazed by the number of people that are here to commemorate that ill-fated day. Why are they here?
I think people are here for many reasons. Some are here simply because it’s the hundredth anniversary. Some people are here because they, their parents and grandparents fought in battles for their country and this is a good time to remember, be remembered and reflect. And some are there for more complex reasons; As Colin Bourke, President of the Hornsby RSL aptly said this morning, our identity is formed from much more than economic success and this is a moment to take pause and remember that.
For me, I am an import. I came to Australia in the late 1980’s. But as I stand there with my family, I am moved as I reflect on the age of the people that went to war back in 1915. My grandfather went to war on his eighteenth birthday, fighting with the 28th Gloucestershire Regiment. His son and my father went to war in the Second World War when he turned eighteen, being called-up in to the Fleet Air Arm. I find it very moving as I stand there with my sons who are of the same age. I cannot imagine the pain that people must have gone through, sending their sons to war.
My reflections are probably like many others as we stand there, that we stand upon the shoulders of many great people that have come before us. And the actions and commitment of our forebears is what gives us our freedoms and identity that we enjoy today.
Lest we forget.