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Jon’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 25 Apr 2006

Location: Dunedin, New Zealand

MapToday is ANZAC day. Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. A national holiday for New Zealand and Australia. Much like Canada's Remembrance Day in November. A few of us woke up for the early morning service which was down town near the war monument. The interesting thing about the service was that it was an early dawn (6:30) service so it was still very dark out as the rain hammered down on us the whole time. It was quite a moving moment when the cannons fired, and the gun shots went off. You could see the fire coming from the cannons as they went off and echoed at such a loud volume that startled everyone in the darkness of the streets. It just makes you think of how scary it would have been as a soldier during the war. With it raining it made you think of how cold the soldiers must have been walking around in the wet cold weather. I try to imagine putting myself in the soldiers situation and can not imagine the fear that would be running through their body. Saying goodbye to loved ones that you may never see again, and heading off to war with your best friends and other family members, not knowing who would service and make it back home again. This old man got up and told a story and said "Signing up to fight in the war was not an issue. You just did it. It seemed to be the natural thing to do. If you belonged to a country it was yours to defend. Who else was going to do it?" So today is a special day that New Zealanders give thanks to the people who sacrificed their lives to fight for their country.
It was a similar service as what you would see on Remembrance Day but they also had bagpipes playing, a few solo drum rolls, and a short parade as they came in. All shops are shut till noon today and then there are big store sales on. Another unique part of today is that they have many services all over Dunedin so you can go to more then one but also they have an ANZAC fun run, a lunch, and then a few different films / plays go on at the theatres down town. It is a day filled with activities. It's nice as the whole day is set aside to commemorate the soldiers. Apparently the social gatherings after the ceremonies of the war veterans are held in pubs and it's a big drink up. The memories must be painful.

A short story about the war:

The ANZAC tradition began during World War I with a landing in 1915 at Gallipoli on the Turkish Aegean coast. Because of a navigational error, the ANZACs came ashore about a mile north of the intended landing point. Instead of facing the expected beach and gentle slope they found themselves at the bottom of steep cliffs, offering the few Turkish defenders an ideal defensive position. Establishing a foothold, the Anzacs found an advance to be impossible. After eight months of stalemate, the Allies withdrew, leaving 10,000 dead amongst the Anzacs.

A full 10% of the New Zealand population (then just under 1 million) served overseas during World War I, and New Zealand had the highest casualty and death rate per capita of any country involved in the war. Australia had the highest casualty rate of any military involved in the war.