ANZAC Day 2012

With last night's release of Travels with Bertha: Two Years Exploring Australia in a 1978 Ford Station Wagon by Paul Martin, it is only right that we reflect upon today as ANZAC Day. Originally a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for their World War I fighters at Gallipoli, April 25 has become a day to broadly commemorate those who fought and died in military operations for their countries. 

Paul spoke wonderfully about the importance of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day to the Australians at the launch, and his experience at being in Australia on the 50th anniversary of the day:

"Australians might appear laconic and laid back, but there's one thing that they take very seriously, and that’s their Diggers. And as another Anzac day comes around today on April 25th, perhaps we should take a moment to mark the event.

The two world wars, which came as Australia was still only just emerging from its status as a colony, played a huge part in defining Australia’s sense of self. Although federation from Britain was achieved in 1901, it is commonly recognised that only in the bloodbath of Gallipoli in 1915 did Australia truly become a nation. And with two out of every three Australian becoming a casualty, the country proportionately suffered far more than any other in the war.

The Second World War, and in particular the war in the Pacific, further widened the link with Britain, as Australia turned to America for military protection. But perhaps the strongest badge of identity to come out of the wars was the icon of the Aussie ‘Digger’, which soon came to be seen as the embodiment of all that was best in the national character.

If Gallipoli is the lasting folk memory of the First World War, it is the Japanese prisoner of war camps that are the visceral, emotional legacy of the Second World War in Australia. The horrific treatment meted out to Australia’s Diggers – where, as is well known, for every sleeper laid on the notorious Burma-Thailand railway an allied prisoner died – is not one easily forgotten as it can partly explain the strain of anti-Asian sentiment that does exist on the continent.

I was in Australia for the 50th Anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific – or VP day as it is known down under. Seeing the parades and the veneration shown to the old diggers was a very powerful experience and not one I’ll quickly forget. The depth of feeling surprised me. Only a short time in the country and once again I saw how different Australia was from the sunny and simple land that I’d expected to encounter."

Wonderful thoughts from Paul and we're delighted to have launched his Australian travelogue so close to ANZAC Day. If you missed the launch, or want to relive it, read Alice's blog on the event here.