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April 25, 2004

Oh bugger, Mates! ANZAC DAY! I almost forgot!

...and since Australia and New Zealand are ahead of us as far as time is concerned... I effectively did forget.

My apologies.

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Today is ANZAC Day - on 25 April, 1915, the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) waded ashore at Gallipoli - and into the history books.

It is a Day of Remembrance for all the ANZAC fallen in all the conflicts that ANZAC soldiers have carried the flag. Usually commemorated at a Dawn Service.

At times, at the request of the local ANZAC officers and staff at the Command and General Staff College, the Imperial Arsenal at Castle Argghhh! has provided our Vickers machinegun (ex-Turkish, and by s/n a possible Gallipoli vet) and Lithgow-built Enfields are used in the proceedings. As are the two Turkish mausers in the collection that are probably Gallipoli veterans. They are fitted with two SMLE bayonets, modified by the Turks to fit the Mauser - that are guaranteed Gallipoli veterans, but that I don't have good pictures of, sorry.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance. In Memoriam.

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There's more in the extended post.

The experience of Gallipoli seared the Australians as greatly as the experiences in the trenches in Flanders did the Brits. And good poetry and good songs came from it.

Perhaps the most famous being Eric Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"

If you'l like to hear it, click here.

Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said, "Son,
It's time you stop ramblin', there's work to be done."
So 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 the ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
We sailed off for 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 waitin', 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,"
When we stopped to bury our slain,
Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead --
Never knew there was worse things than dying.
For I'll go no more "Waltzing Matilda,"
All around the green bush far and free --
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more "Waltzing Matilda" for me.
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.
But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
Then they turned all their faces away.
And so now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask meself the same question.
But the band plays "Waltzing Matilda,"
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday, no one will march there at all.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong,
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?