Today is Anzac Day, a day of reflection, commemoration and acknowledgement of service in war. I watched a documentary that affected me: Lest we Forget What?. It is a recently made Australian documentary on the service of the Australian Imperial Force in World War One.
In an unplanned synergy, I watched this program as I started the prototype of my embryonic shawl pattern Berlin: Denkmal. This design is inspired by the memorials integrated into the fabric of the city of Berlin – memorials linked to another, and very different war.
The documentary described perspectives on the Gallipoli action that challenge the Anzac legend and this gave me a different understanding of the batlle at Gallipoli. It speaks of the view of the war that many have obtained from the war correspondent Charles Bean. In short, he portrays the Australian soldiers as being country boys, naturally gifted soldiers fighting valiantly but compromised by negligent decision making by the British. This was the story I learned, but the program presented compelling evidence that put the sto of Gallipoli in a very different light.
The presenter travelled from Anzac Cove to the former battlefields of the western front in France. Despite studying and reading about World War One, I learned a lot abut the significance of this part of the war. The program described comparative insignificance of the Gallipoli campaign, both to the war itself and to the development of the Australian fighting force.
In a finish that had me in tears, the presenter read the peom Aftermath, by Siegfried Sassoon, over footage of marching youg soldiers – Australian soldiers in full dress unifom. As she reached the end of the poem, it became apparent that this was a graduation parade, and so the last words of the poem were read over the exuberant celebrations of this group of young, brand new warfighters.
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.