I respect Anzac Day and still remember quite vivid flashes from the first Anzac March I ever saw, which must have been 1949, only four years after the end of World War II.
Last night, or early this morning, having been woken by neighbours, I heard a most interesting program on Radio National: The Music of Gallipoli presented by Jan Wositsky: songs from the Australian, Turkish, and Maori traditions. It began with that classic song by Eric Bogle, “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” (with delightful irony that link takes you to a German site.)
When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in nineteen fifteen the country said, “Son,
It’s time to stop rambling, there’s work to be done.”
And they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As our ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, flag-waving and tears
We sailed off to Gallipoli.
And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water.
And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he primed himself well,
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell,
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
But the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again…
Radio National has a number of interesting programs for Anzac Day today. I may hear some, but I am mainly going to King Street Wharf to see my brother off as he returns to Tasmania today. There will be shades of Anzac at that wharf though.