ANZAC at Villers-Bretonneux

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The numbers are astonishing.  In Canberra, more than 30 000 turned out for the ANZAC Day dawn service.

In northern France, Jane Rowe and I joined thousands of other Australians at the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.  This is sacred ground for Australia.  There, in farmers’ fields, brave Australian soldiers repulsed the German final advance to capture the strategic city of Amiens.  It was stopped by the AIF forces on April 24th and 25th 1918.  Twelve hundred young Australians paid with their lives.

The revival of enthusiasm for ANZAC Day has excited much comment in the media.  Some see it as not so positive.  They disdain displays of flag-wrapping as an ugly face of conservative nationalism.

But, on the other hand, I feel there are many different reasons why people mark the significance of this day.  As the 100th anniversary of the Great War approaches next year, and the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day is remembered in 2015, let’s remember what Turkish leader Ataturk said of the ANZACS: “You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”