Friday, April 25, 2014

Anzac legend survives sneering sabotage

Piers Akerman

SOME of our younger veterans from East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict eras are concerned their stories are still submerged in the flood of memoirs from WWI and WWII. Their concern is understandable — but the tide is turning.

Friday they will march at the head of the Anzac Day procession through Sydney, and elsewhere, reminding us that those remaining veterans of earlier wars, and those who died in those conflicts, also defended our nation and its culture with the same vigour of purpose.

Next year there will be fewer WWII survivors at the muster and, with the draw-down of forces from Afghanistan, more of the newly-returned servicemen and women filling the ranks and acknowledging the thanks of a grateful population.

Despite the efforts of the legions of left-wing detractors who poured scorn and denigration upon the RSL and the Anzac tradition in the 60s and early 70s, new generations of Australians have made the effort to discover for themselves the Anzac legend and the values it represents.

The handful of pilgrims who once trekked to the chilly shores of Anzac Cove 50 years ago has swollen to such an extent that attendance has been subjected to a necessary ballot to ensure the ceremony is manageable and respectful.

That is one in the eye for all the protesters and propagandists who sneered at Anzac Day as an excuse for an orgy of drunken self-pity.

There are many reasons put forward for this dramatic reversal of Australian opinion but it is most likely that the left-wingers in the media who once claimed Anzac Day was an irrelevance were just wrong (as usual) and listening to themselves or the leftist views of mono-cultural ABC presenters bent on pushing the anti-Western views of their socialist comrades.

Importantly, the film Gallipoli, directed by the publicity-shy Peter Weir and co-written with very public playwright David Williamson, seems to have played a critical role in introducing post-baby boomer Australians to Anzac and defeating the misinformation fed through the Labor-led teachers union.

Weir, who had visited the Dardanelles four years before making the film, revealed in a speech to Washington’s Centre for Australian and New Zealand Studies in 2001 that the initial drafts of the script tried to include the referenda on conscription (defeated twice) but struggled with so much material.

He said the breakthrough came after reading historian C.E.W. Bean’s seminal work and his description of the battle at The Nek, on the heights above the beach. It was, he says, a disaster.

According to Bean, there was an inexplicable mistake in the synchronisation of watches held by the forward troops and those responsible for naval and land bombardment intended to blast the Turks out of the opposing trenches.

The shelling ended seven minutes before the planned 4.30am assault and the Turks were ready when the Anzacs appeared.

“The first line, which has started so confidently, has been annihilated in half a minute; and the others, having seen it mown down, realised fully that when they attempted to follow they would be instantly destroyed. Yet as soon as the first line had cleared the parapet, the second took its place … and exactly two minutes after the first had gone, without hesitation every man in the second line leapt forward into the tempest,” Bean wrote.

“Mate having said goodbye to mate, the third line took up its position.”

And there was to be a fourth line. “With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia, sons of the old pioneering families, youngsters — in some cases two and three from the same home — who had flocked to Perth at the outbreak of war with their own horses and saddlery. Men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed to their deaths.

“Gresley Harper and Wilfred, his younger brother, the latter of whom was last seen running like a schoolboy in a foot race.’’

That tale from Bean’s Official History was to become the storyline of Weir’s film.

Some of the younger generation of moviegoers introduced to the Anzac story via Weir’s film may have gone to see the young stars Mel Gibson or Mark Lee but they emerged with a sense of the binding tradition that we, young and not-so-young, honour today.


Piers doesn't completely understand the popularity of ANZAC day among the young but I think I do.  It is popular because lots of people like to feel continuity with their past -- and traditions enable that.  But the Left have ripped many of our traditions to shreds so it is only a very strong tradition like ANZAC day that has survived.  So young people flock to one of the few  national traditions they have left.  The monarchy  is another such tradition and polls show big support for that among the young too  -- JR.

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