Monday, April 25, 2016

Anzac Day 100

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first official Anzac Day—April 25, 1916. It was held on the first anniversary of the doomed Gallipoli campaign, and has since grown to include honouring all soldiers, and especially those who died, in service to New Zealand and Australia. But the Gallipoli connection remains paramount.

Anzac Day has always been a special day, but this year in particular some people have been saying, “what about the New Zealand Wars?” (as for example, the latest Pensilsword comic). I have some sympathy with that because I feel strongly that people should know the history of their country, good bad and indifferent. However, I don’t personally think that has anything to do with Anzac Day, but, rather, that the New Zealand Wars should get their own focus.

There’s been a small movement to create a new national holiday to commemorate the wars, and while Prime Minister John Key has ruled out creating a new public holiday (because the business elites he represents don’t want workers to have another paid holiday off work), he has talked about possibly changing an existing public holiday into a day of commemoration.

Which one? If I was more cynical than I actually am, I’d say he’d pick Queen’s Birthday so he can rile up his party’s base in the lead-up to the next election, but the truth is that there are no public holidays that aren’t otherwise engaged. Even Anniversary Day, which commemorates the founding of New Zealand’s nineteenth century provinces would be a problem because of regional pride, and especially because they’re on different dates. Still, there would at least be a kind of poetic justice in eliminating the various Anniversary Days in favour of one day commemorating the nineteenth century’s New Zealand Wars. My bet is that it simply won’t happen at all, not under a National Party-led government.

So, Anzac Day will continue pretty much as it has for the past century, a day of remembrance of the fallen, an acknowledgement of the sacrifices of all who served, and, in particular, a pause to remember the disaster of Gallipoli. For some, that may not be enough, but for the majority of New Zealanders, it is, so I’m confident the day will continue for a long time to come.

Lest we forget.

The photo above is one I took last year of the official Anzac Day WW100 Commemorative pin I’d bought for that year. I used the photo in my Anzac Day 2015 post.

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