Sketches on Atheism

Anzac Day

Lest we forget

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44 thoughts on “Anzac Day

  1. This is confusing – get lured in wondering how you’re going to make a joke out of that, and find silence. The Black Adder ending was impressive. Have you seen Regeneration?

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      • I’m not sure, I guess the parts in the asylum where Owen and Sassoon were might have been. I have a terrible memory for films but that opening sequence always stuck with me.

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      • I have all the letters sent home to my mum’s family in WW1. An astonishing collection ranging from 1914 up to 1918, but this journal entry by Mary Borden (composed on the first day of the Somme Offensive) has always stood out as something truly remarkable:

        “The operating room was ablaze… The place by one o’clock in the morning was a shambles. The air was thick with steaming sweat. It was my business to sort out the wounded as they were brought in from the ambulances and to keep them from dying before they got to the operating room. …If I made a mistake, some would die on their stretchers on the floor under my eyes who need not have died. It was all, you see, a dream. The dying men on the floor were drowned men cast up on the beach, and there was the ebb of life pouring over them, sucking them away like an invisible tide. There were chests with holes as big as your fists, and stumps were legs were once fastened. There were eyes, blind eyes, and parts of faces; the nose gone or the jaw. There were these things, but no men. I thought, this is the second battle field. The battle now is going on over the helpless bodies of these men, and it is we who are doing the fighting now, with their real enemies. ”

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  2. I recently watched a history of WW1 on the History Channel and may I say the war on the Eastern front was a disaster……and Gallipoli was a bad decision…at least according to the program…..the men fought bravely but were out gunned by the Turks……

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    • The Turks were defending their country, and they did it well. No one in Australia thinks badly of them. In fact, we honour them.

      This speech was delivered by Atatürk in 1934 as a tribute to the ANZACs killed at Gallipoli

      “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well.”

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  3. WW1 in particular is a subject very close to my heart. I think it’s amazing that you have all of the letters that were sent to your mum’s family, what a piece of personal history to have survive. Great reference to the very last episode of Blackadder, it was indeed most unexpected. Even I can’t watch it without a good belly laugh and a few tears, one of those awesome moments in TV history. Very poignant and touching post John.

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    • Thanks. The letters are indeed amazing. They’re mostly from one young man who left in 1914 all full of adventure. By 1917 the letters are just dark, almost black. he tries to shield his mother from the horror but in the end he just can’t. In one brief correspondence he implores his mother not to allow his younger brother to enlist. Its gut-wrenching.

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  4. I was going to say the letters must be really difficult to read and very very humbling. Amazing people to have lived through such experiences, even more amazing to have survived it for the few that did.

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    • Long story short, in late 1914 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, decided that knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war would open Germany up to an attack from the southwestern flank. His proposal was to assault the Dardanelles, Turkey. On the 25th of April Australian, New Zealand and English troops landed on the peninsula. The Brits got ashore OK but at Gallipoli the Australians and Kiwis (the ANZACs… Australia & NZ Army Corpse) got slaughtered. They did manage to take some ground and a bloody stalemate ensued for 9 months after which all forces were successfully withdrawn. We celebrate the day to mark the futility of war and the loss of innocence.

      This song does a good job at explaining it.

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  5. Marvellous speech, the one you quoted from Atatürk.

    Loved the entire series of Black Adder. Each season had a bit different flavour, and the last one was bitter sweet. To me it seemed best imaginable way to ridicule the madness that is war, but not so much to ridicule the brave men who fought it.

    “…Never has war been fought so badly, since Olaf the Hairy, king of all the Vikings, ordered ten thousand battle helmets, with horns inside…” Cpt. Blackadder

    We Finns did not participate in WW1 much. We were part of the Russian Empire, but at the time the the Russians had gotten suspicious of us and all the Finnish regiments were disbanded. Not entirely a bad idea, I suppose, as some young volunteers joined the war on German side to learn how to make war against the Russians. After the revolution in Russia, the Soviets were all too busy with their civil war and practically gave us our indipendence. Of course nothing is as easy as that, and my grandad (the first atheist in our family) fought in the ensuing Finnish civil war, wich was a bloody conflict, to say the least.

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    • Violence always seem to follow the break up of empires. Have you written anything on the Finnish Civil War? i’d like to read if you have.

      Anzac Day is an oddity. We celebrate our greatest defeat and honour the Turks. Strangely wonderful if you think about it.

      Olaf the Hairy…. Priceless 🙂

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  6. As a pacifist I’d willingly take up arms against anyone trying to force me to take up arms—would that all might do the same.

    Hell, it might even come to that …

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