Anzac Day is one hundred years old today
Today is the most solemn day of the year for our antipodean allies, Australia and New Zealand. In a binational holiday, the two nations commemorate an event that happened one hundred years ago today. The Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (The ANZACs) landed at Gallipoli, in a bold move to take Germany's ally Turkey out of World War I. The commander of the forces of the Ottoman Caliphate, the man who became Attaturk after the war, Mustafa Kemal, had other ideas, and the battle became horrendously bloody, with 8,709 dead from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand.
My Australian correspondent John McMahon puts the toll in perspective:
It was a flaming, bloody waste; at this time, Australia's population was fewer than 5 million. Around 420,000 Australians enlisted for service in the First World War, representing 38.7 per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 44.
For king and empire, the young colonials ventured forth into the meat grinder.
Since the Second World War, ANZAC Day has become a memorial to all war dead of the two nations. Australia has fought next to American soldiers in every war we have conducted since the end of World War II, including Iraq and Afghanistan. You can't find a more faithful ally.
As John McMahon notes:
The birth of Australia came about as a direct consequence of the outcome of the American War of Independence. No longer able to send convicts to the 13 colonies in the Americas, Britain turned its attention to the Great Southern Land formerly known as New Holland. This land was claimed for Great Britain by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770; it was Lieutenant Cook who named the Sandwich Islands now known as Hawaii.
Thus on 26th January 1788 Governor Phillip sailed into Port Jackson (Sydney) and established the convict colony that was to become the Nation of Australia.
On this day, we can think of our allies and their sacrifices in the name of democracy and the freedoms of Western civilization.