How many of us really know about the meaning of Anzac Day, what the different parts of the service are and how these have developed over time?
Philippa Werry asked herself this after attending an Anzac Day service with her family at the local school. It inspired her to write two books to teach children about Anzac day, what happened at Gallipoli, and why it still matters today.
She also had a personal interest, as both of her grandfathers fought in the First World War, one at Gallipoli and one at the Western Front, and her great-great-aunt was in the first group of New Zealand nurses to leave for WW1.
This is the story of three best mates who lived on the same street, went to the same school and signed up and went to war together. They had never been overseas before so it was going to be a big adventure.
When they arrived at Gallipoli to capture it from the Turks the Aussie soldiers they had teamed up with said it would be, “a piece of cake and those Turkish blokes won’t know what’s hit them.” Instead all hell broke loose, bullets whizzed past and the sea was red with blood.
For months they continued to fight the enemy from the trenches in horrendous conditions. Then Joe got sick and was put on a hospital ship and Harry was killed. Eventually it was decided to withdraw the troops. It had all been in vain. They went to see their friends’ grave one last time feeling they were abandoning him.
It was not until many years later when they had grown old that the two survivors were able to travel back to Gallipoli to lay poppies on Harry’s grave.
The story is told simply so that primary school children can easily understand it. The pictures by painter and award winning illustrator Bob Kerr are not too gruesome but still manage to capture the environment in which the action took place. The expressions on the soldier’s faces tell the story, their bewilderment, concern for their wounded mate, horror at Harry’s shooting and gloom and despondency when they are forced to evacuate.
Title: Best Mates
Author and Illustrator: Philippa Werry and Bob Kerr
Publisher New Holland
Anzac Day, the New Zealand Story
This book is packed full of facts, interesting anecdotes and photographs. It tells not only the story of the first Gallipoli landings but also New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War. There is a chapter about remembrance with pictures of many memorials and statues that were erected after the war, and tells why we wear red poppies to remember the dead.
The different parts of the Anzac Day service, what people do on Anzac Day and why we eat Anzac biscuits are explained.
In telling the Anzac Day story it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war and how the plan to invade the Gallipoli Peninsula went horribly wrong. On the day they landed, out of the 3000 NZ soldiers there that day 1/5 had been killed or wounded by evening.
While the sacrifice made by these young men is still a focus of Anzac Day services the meaning of Anzac day has broadened. It now also relates to all other war efforts that New Zealanders and Australians have been involved in. “It is a time to honour the sacrifice of those who died and the courage of those who served in any of those conflicts, and reflect on the sadness, horror and futility of war” This makes it more relevant and meaningful today, and it also celebrates the Anzac Spirit; “Being loyal to your mates, brave in the face of danger and willing to sacrifice yourself for others; staying cheerful under tough conditions and never giving up.”
A great contemporary example of the Anzac Spirit in action was the Student Volunteer Army who cheerfully and tirelessly shovelled away 65,000 tons of liquefaction and clocked up over 75000 hours of voluntary hours after the Christchurch earthquakes. The RSA awarded them the first RSA Anzac of the year award.
I look forward to sharing these two Anzac books with my grandchildren. My own children knew their grandfather, played with his World War Two medals and heard stories from their grandmother about how as a young woman she had been part of the World War Two war effort in Italy. But our old people have passed away now and the direct link to their war stories is broken. Books like this will help to give them some idea about the realities of war.
Title: Anzac Day, the New Zealand Story: What it is and why it matters
Author: Philippa Werry
Publisher: New Holland