No matter the weather, as dawn breaks this coming 25th April 2015, hundreds and thousands of New Zealanders across our country will stand in silence.
It will be repeated across the ditch in Australia, where possibly millions will brave the dawn.
And finally again, where it all began, by those New Zealanders and Australians who have journeyed the pilgrimage to a place on the globe called Anzac Cove. It’s a place on the Turkish peninsula, Gallipoli.
April 25th is ANZAC Day for New Zealanders and Australians alike. A day set aside to commemorate those heroes who lost their lives, or survived to go on to fight some more, or survived to return home. It will be 100 years to the day since the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) soldiers, along with other Expeditionary Forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula during World War 1.
Their mission was to seize the Gallipoli peninsula and clear for the Royal Navy to capture the Turkish capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul). However, the Turks defense held and when the Allies evacuated the peninsula some eight months later, almost 36,000 Commonwealth; 10,000 French and around 86,000 Turks had lost their lives to the campaign.
Bugles will echo ‘the last post’ tune – it always causes the hair to rise on the back of one’s neck. And in mass unison, voices will utter the words “we shall remember them.” It stirs emotions in both young and old, no matter where their footing will be on this coming ANZAC Day.
The footing for us personally holds a more significant place in our hearts, for three reasons.
Not many pilgrims to the Gallipoli peninsula traveling from Istanbul can say that they have stepped out the distance by foot to walk there.
To commemorate the 96th Anniversary in 2011, we took 21 days to cover the 360 km distance. The vigil to stay up all night and freeze to experience the dawn service at ANZAC Cove was nothing compared to the ghosts of the past. It was just special to be able to show respect.
The walk itself was raw. It was breathtaking, it was humbling, it was character building, and it was sore legs after day three that had us abandon stuff from our packs so as to make it more easier going! And this cemented reason number two why the time around ANZAC Day is significant.
After emptying the contents of my back pack onto my bed, what became important was kept and what was nice to have was left behind. This habit grew more and more as we continued our noses towards Gallipoli. It was foundational to the minimalistic lifestyle we now embrace where less is more to enjoy the freedom concepts it offers so as to do what matters most.
The third reason was the lineage to the historical events of yesteryear. My Maori Poua (Grandfather) was an ANZAC soldier who went, fought and survived the campaign. At the time, I wrote my thoughts into a poem …
Dear Poua Shad
Although we never me, I know who you are,
My Grandfather who went to Gallipoli, a land of distance far.
We came to see for ourselves, where you spent some fighting time,
To expose ourselves to history, and imagined how you shined.
The walk was hard and challenging, but we made it all the same,
It was the least we could do, to honor the family name.
ANZACs are spoken of highly, so we commemorate and remember you,
From all the Ruru Whanau, as they stand proud too.
ANZAC Day 2011, Gallipoli, Turkey
100 years ago come this 25th April 2015 … we shall reflect, we shall remember, we shall respect – them.