Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Turkish bread and vegemite for Anzac Day

A marriage made in heaven: toasted Turkish bread, and the salty Australian spread, vegemite. My Anzac day breakfast, washed down with a nice cup of tea.

Today is Anzac Day. Many Australians and New Zealanders have a special place in their hearts for Turkey, the site of the birth of Anzac, during the disastrous Dardanelles campaign of 1915, on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula. The British and French, as well as other allies, were there of course, and in greater numbers, suffering greater losses, but as the Great War inevitably meant far more to them on home soil, it does not have the same significance for them. In a short blog, I can't say everything there is to say about Anzac, so what follows are a few ramblings.

The allies landed on the peninsula, the Australians and New Zealanders at a little bay which is now known as Anzac Cove, at dawn on 25 April, 1915. [ANZAC means Australian and New Zealand Army Corps]

Last year I wrote: "Anzac Day, commemorating the contribution made in war. .. I prefer to think of it as a day not glorifying war but acknowledging its futility."

The first marking of ANZAC Day commemoration was in 1916. By the 1920s it was a public holiday throughout Australia, as it remains today. There are many people who have commentated about why this is such an important day for Australians, and some scoff at a country which commemorates a huge military defeat as a national day.

But there are some amazing things that have come from Anzac. For me they include:
  • an opportunity to remind us that peace is precious and always worth striving for;
  • that great friendships can be forged once people lay down arms and realise we are all human - Australians have great bonds with former foes in Turkey, and former allies in France.
  • The Turks engaged in one of the most generous acts of reconciliation, when Ataturk in 1934 urged the mothers of the slain not to weep, as "your sons are now also our sons."
  • a chance to study the history and realise that while Australians went into WW1 as colonials - part of the British Empire - and many still at that time regarded England as "home" - fighting for "God, King and Country" , somethign else was forged on those battelfields, an Australian identity that hadn't yet become real. australia had only been a unified country, rather thanseparate colonies for 13 years at the time of the outbreak of WW1.
Two years ago I attended Anzac day commemorations in France, at Villers-Bretonneux, and Bullecourt, two scenes huge Australian involvement on the Western Front. There was far more loss of life in France than Gallipoli, as horrific as the latter was. Here are some of the pictures I took then.

Last year my Anzac Day post was a tribute to my grandfather, who was at Gallipoli, and the Western Front in France.

I made this card featuring a photo of my grandfather, who survived unscathed, unlike many of his colleagues, who were either damaged and fractured, or slaughtered (the images behind him). Featured are copies of woven postcards he sent his mother (the card reads "My Dear Mother") and a photo of a poppy I took in the Somme area of France in 2003.

Later, I made this one, My Dear Mother, which is a tribute to the relationships expressed in the letters sent home, between sons and their families, especially their mothers:

Over the past several years I have spent many hours researching the activities of my grandfather during that war, starting with several letters which he sent from Egypt and France, but mainly using the magnificent collections of the Australian War Memorial and Australian Archives. In the past couple of weeks I have managed to get his story up on the web. He was an artillery driver, meaning he was in charge of teams of horses dragging the artillery to the artillery lines. You can read about his story, and the significant battles in the Somme and Flanders, as well as Gallipoli at this site - Percy Smith, Anzac.

Anyone interested in exploring more about Gallipoli and France/Belgium from the Australian point of view, I thoroughly recommend these books: Gallipoli by Les Carlyon, and The Great War, also by Les Carlyon.

The movie, Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, made in 1981, holds up remarkably well. It is shown nightly at the Anzac Pansiyon in Canakkale in Turkey!

But for documentary film, you just can't go past this Turkish production, also called Gallipoli, from 2005. It is a magnificent film, telling the story of the war from both sides, and depicting the crazyness of it all, as well as the humanity on both sides, mainly throught the personal accounts of combatants on both sides. It uses the photographs, diaries and letters of three Australians, two Britons, three New Zealanders and two Turkish soldiers from the beginning of the campaign to its end. Review here. Do try to see it if you are at all interested in this part of our history.

And, finally, here's a picture of my grandfather an grandmother on their wedding day. My existence is thanks to the fact that, along with a mere 7 000 others, my grandad survived both Gallipoli and France to be able to come home to be the gentle, peace-loving, war-hating man he was.


  1. Wonderful post Sally that brings out your research and creative skills. Those cards you made are lovely.

  2. Sally, such a thoughtful posting. My feelings of ANZAC Day are similar to your's. My post today is about my grandfather, about whom very little is known. His health was shattered by the gassings he suffered in France and Belgium, and he became a very private man. Even my mother,his only child, says she really didn't know him. Last ANZAC Day, I also made a couple of ATCs about him, and also the waste of war. Your research efforts are inspirational and astounding...I feel like I'm pissing in the wind at times.

  3. An interesting notion that all war is futile. Having known several European friends who were fortunate to have [barely]survived Hitler's policies, I'm rather glad that eventually Neville Chamberlain's views along these lines finally lost favour. Not, mind you, it mightn't have been better had Chamberlain's approach been rejected a tad sooner?

  4. Wonderful post. Thank you, Sally. You already know my feelings about all these wars. Have a nice day off.

  5. Fantastic Sally- you are so creative. It was nice of you to share this.

  6. Wow. A beautiful post and ending with your grandparents. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you, Sally.

    Abraham Lincoln

  7. Thank you for your post, it is beautiful.
    I wish sincerely our children could avoid any war, regardless of its reasons.

  8. Happy Anzac Day.

    How does Vegemite taste like? Does it taste like Marmite?

  9. You and your blog are boring!

  10. Wonderful, touching post.

  11. Nice tribute to the Australian Vets of WWI and your grandfather.
    I am very impressed by the cards you've made - I love the fact that they are personalized.

  12. Hi Sally
    I enjoyed your entry on Anzac Day. I came across your blog by accident when I Googled The Sydney Mail- an early Sydney newspaper of which I have a complete set for WW1.
    I'm still exploring your vast blog!! Wow, what a voyage of discovery.
    You may like to check my blog and see my notes on Anzac Day and earlier on the Lone Pine. I have 6 descendants of the original Lone Pine (Alleppo Pine) growing on my land). I'm at