Time marches on. We say we are grateful we have not had a “World War” since 1945. We say we shall not repeat the “sins of our fathers”. And yet, every day, when you turn on the news, it feels like the world is very much still at war – that it has always been at war. Terrorism attacks, crimes, massacres – these are our everyday lives.
The world is getting smaller, despite the population continuing to rise, because technology has allowed us all to grow closer to each other. We can communicate with friends and family with the touch of a button any time of the day. We can fly to the other end of the Earth faster than ever before (though I would still appreciate it if I could get to London in less than twenty-four hours). And when there are terrorist attacks or violence in other parts of the world, we still reel with the pain as if it had happened in our own backyards.
2016 marks the 101st anniversary of the Gallipoli Landing at ANZAC Cove. It marked Australia’s greatest military defeat, alongside our brothers-in-arms across the ditch, New Zealand, yet April 25th is a day we now spend each year to honouring the more than 102,000 service men and women and nurses who have died in battle. Some have questioned why a country would commemorate a day of such a loss. Former Governor of New South Wales (2001-2015), Dame Marie Bashir, commented in a presentation last year that Australia’s participation in WWI, and the Boer War before that, was critical in the country’s identity as Australians as Australia became a Federation in 1901. As we say the words “Lest We Forget” we are honouring the memories of those who fought for their new country and the sacrifices they made to look after our own.
To mark the centenary of the ANZAC Landing, Poppy Park was established with over 102,000 poppies on display for five weeks. This year, continuing on the work begun last year, the organisation offered “print-at-home” poppies which included the name of a fallen soldier and some details about that person. As an immigrant, I did not have any ancestors who had fought for Australia, and so I elected to be allocated a name at random: Private Bertrand James Dixon, died in France on 9th May, 1917 at the age of 21, son of William and Mary Dixon. I don’t know about you, but my biggest worry at the age of 21 was probably running out of paper as I tried to finish a university assignment late at night and at the last minute, certainly nothing life-threatening like keeping my head down in the trenches and away from stray bullets.
Whilst I know nothing of young Private Dixon, I imagine he would have enlisted as soon as he was able to. Like many of his peers, and perhaps brothers too, he would have felt a sense of adventure, excitement, and most of all, duty. During his time in France, he would have seen many of his fellow soldiers killed or wounded. He would have killed men himself. I wonder how he had felt the first time he pulled the trigger? Or perhaps it was the bayonet. War was very personal. Perhaps he had left behind a girlfriend, to whom he may have written many letters.
I will never know the full story of Private Dixon, as I will not know about the others who died alongside him. But all we can do is to never forget the sacrifices men and women like young Dixon had made and many who continue to make in our defense. And wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we could all live together in harmony and in peace so that there would be no more need for these deaths?
- 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.
Lest We Forget