Anzac Day 25 April by Susan Grimsdell

The airwaves here in New Zealand are full of war.  Remembrance of war, that is. 25 April marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

When I listen, I always get an uneasy feeling.  I hear that it’s all about “honouring” those who were killed, but when I think of all those sad, sad white crosses in the European war cemeteries, I have to wonder if the young men and women there would find any comfort from knowing that people all over the world were praying for them.  I think that what they really would have wanted is not to have been sent to get killed in the first place.

The causes of war

And why were they sent?  European countries before the war had formed alliances – Russia liked Serbia and France, France liked Britain and Belgium and Japan, Germany liked Austria/Hungary.  They all vowed to support their mates if it came to it.  Which it did.

A Serbian revolutionary killed the Archduke of Austria/Hungary when he was visiting Bosnia.  Austria/Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Russia stepped up to support Serbia, Germany started by attacking France then got stuck into Russia, and away they all went – strutting around with their chests out – “I’m getting in to support France”, “Well, I’m in to support Britain and Japan”, “Count me in – I’m mates with Russia and Belgium”.  Or whatever.

The legacy of war

Over the next four years 17 million died.  I doubt if any of them cared one toss for Germany or Serbia or Belgium or any of those countries many of them had never even heard of.  But they died in those ghastly battle sites  – Passchendaele, the Somme, Gallipoli.  Many survived but never recovered.  My grandfather was one of those – gassed, made it back to England, but died very young, too young for me ever to meet him.

Today when we think about them, shouldn’t we focus not only on how brave those young people were, but how stupid and useless it all was, and on how surely we can figure out a better way of dealing with grievances than smashing our opponents to bits.

2 Comments on “Anzac Day 25 April by Susan Grimsdell

  1. I also felt so overcome with the thought ” what have we learnt ” I fear nothing. This Anzac day I looked up the records of my great uncle Jack. He fought in WW1 , only leaving the rural farm in NSW after being sent a white feather by some ” kindly” person. His brother was already over there fighting and Jack was keeping the farm running with his sisters. Jack was killed on 6th April 1918 in a field in France . Jack was 23 years old . In his pockets he had a photo, a religious emblem and 2 pieces of poetry. My son has just turned 24 and I can only imagine how devastated my great grandparents, grandmother and great uncle and aunts must have felt when Jack died. He is still over there in France . I cried today for Jack, the young man who loved poetry and farming. I cried today for our world and all the families who continue to have their children killed in the name of religion, power, greed, race and many other reasons. This does not bring peace and never will.

    • Thank you Julez. I cried too, reading your words, thinking of that young man. Susan

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