Today is Anzac Day . It is a day that has become a deeply significant day for Australians … it marks a historic event from which there is now only one living survivor, but it has also on some level, become generally linked with a sense of Australian identity.
The origins of Anzac Day lie in the futile assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula during the First World War by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. And while the campaign was a military failure, it became a defining moment for the newly fledged Australian nation … for the acts of bravery and mateship that occurred, despite the horrors of war, echo down the years, ringing of truth, reminding us that those men were once young like us, like our sons. And in every ANZAC story we hear, we hear also the laughter, the irreverence, the respect, generosity and seriousness that deeply informs the nature of what we know to be "Australian".
But there is something that has been missing in the Australian character for some time … the sense of generosity for which the Anzacs were also known. Thankfully I have noticed it raising its head again recently. When l heard, last week, that the Rats of Tobruk Association were no longer able to meet the costs of maintaining the building where they had been meeting since the end of World War II I was saddened. In a truly generous act, the ROTA had decided to donate the proceeds to the Royal Children’s Hospital for cancer research — but would find themselves without a space for their monthly meetings … and this Anzac Day would be their last in Tobruk House.
Bill Gibbins is the founder of Australian transport group FCL, and after hearing of the situation, emerged from the Tobruk House auction this week as its new owner. He has allowed the ROTA to continue to use Tobruk House as long as they want it, and even went so far, during today’s Anzac Day celebration, to extend that invitation to all returning and returned services groups. I am sure this act of generosity will not go un-remembered.
All across the country today, the following verse by Laurence Binyon has been recited. The haunting middle stanzas of "For the Fallen" I copy out and share with you all … in remembrance.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.