I’m sure all my American readers are familiar with Veteran’s Day, but did you know that Australia and New Zealand have a similar day? That day is called ANZAC Day and is observed on April 25th and is when they honor their servicemen and servicewomen’s contribution to their countries. It is also a day they reflect upon the costs and horrific impacts of war. I had never heard of ANZAC until I saw it listed as an activity on our cruise on the Carnival Legend.
ANZAC is an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Originally, ANZAC Day was established to honor the members of the ANZAC who fought against the Ottoman Empire at Gallipoli during World War I. The battle began on April 25th, 1915, when British troops, including the ANZAC, landed on Gallipoli which was the first stop on their objective of capturing Constantinople (now Istanbul).
There at Gallipoli the allied forces met unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Ottoman forces. It quickly became a stalemate with heavy casualties on both sides incurred over the next eight months. Finally the Allies withdrew but not before over 8,500 Australians and over 2,700 New Zealanders were killed. These casualties were extremely high considering the small populations of the two countries. Given the same ratio today it would be like having over 60,000 American troop deaths in just 8 months. (Note: For comparison: we lost 58,296 servicemen and servicewomen in the 20 years of fighting the Vietnam War.) You can imagine the profound impact this loss had on Australia and New Zealand’s government and people.
Although ANZAC Day was originally established to commemorate the fallen of the Battle of Gallipoli it now encompasses all Australian and New Zealand services and wars. It’s a unique occasion in that it’s observed by two countries and both countries’ names are included in the name.
Back to the Legend on April 25th
At 5:30 in the morning members of the ship’s officers and selected guests performed an ANZAC Day Dawn Service. Both the New Zealand and Australian flags were prominently displayed as the speakers talked about the bravery and sacrifices made by their service personnel.
At the conclusion a passenger, Eric Read, sang “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. It was a very moving song but I was surprised at how much of a protest song it was. Later, I learned that it’s not considered “anti-soldier” like many of our Vietnam protest songs, but is instead “anti-war” and the lyrics highlight the devastation and the toll that Gallipoli and other battles cost in terms of human suffering.
The service was solemn and relatively simple, yet very moving; bringing tears to many eyes, including mine. It was attended by several hundred passengers including service personnel in their uniforms. At the end of the service the group observed two minutes of silence followed by Reveille. Again, very moving. Afterwards, a traditional “battle breakfast” consisting of coffee laced with rum was served.
There were two more ANZAC commemorations throughout the day. The first was a showing of the movie, Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson. I thought I knew all of Mel Gibson’s movies, but I had never heard of this one. The move really brought home the horror and brutality of the battle.
Also, later in the day passengers gathered to play Two-Up. This is a gambling game that is only legal on ANZAC Day when it is played as a way of further showing linkage with the soldiers who used to play the game often. Here on the ship we weren’t allowed to use real money, but instead we were each given $1000 of Carnival Cash.
To play the game a “spinner” is identified and he/she is given two pennies which are going to be tossed after players make their wagers. Players bet on whether there will be two heads, two tails or “odds” when it’s one head and one tail shown. Players are betting with one another and there is a lot of shouting as bets are exchanged. Finally betting is closed and the spinner tosses the two coins in the air and everyone gets quite excited as they wait to see if they’ve won. Once the outcome is determined the bets are paid off and the game begins again. It’s a blast, even though Mona and I lost our $1000 in Carnival Cash in less than ten minutes.
As with the dawn ceremony, fellow passenger Eric Read capped off the event by playing traditional Aussie sing-along songs including “Waltzing Matilda”. Unfortunately, that particular song has been playing in my head while I’m typing this story and frankly, I’m getting a bit tired of it!
I was moved and impressed with the way both Aussies and Kiwis observed ANZAC Day. I applaud how they honor their servicemen and servicewomen; particularly those who have paid the ultimate price. After taking part in my first ANZAC Day I am motivated to change the way I observe Veteran’s Day here in the US.
Here’s a link to information about the movie: Gallipoli
Here’s more information on ANZAC Day
Here’s more detailed information on how to play Two Up