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.