Friday, April 28, 2006

Anzac Day

This is a catch up dadness for Tuesday and Wednesday, typed at home in the sunroom on the old iMac in the dark after a mammoth washing up session while listening to Don McLaren's POW diaries from the fall of Singapore in February 1942 to the liberation of Japan in Spetember 1945. That's a very, very long time.

It was Anzac Day on Tuesday. I went to the dawn service for the second year - I will try to make it every year now. It is very moving and observed with great solemnity by all ages who attend. I think the mere fact it's so early on a cold April morning concentrates the mind, and discourages those who have no taste for dignified silences. A brass band played quietly in the dark, with tiny LED lights on their music stands.

The address was read by a primary school girl. Like last year it was very mature, and read very confidently. I am impressed but also unsettled by this. I would probably prefer something more genuinely child-like, with less evidence of grown-up coaching, if it is thought desirable to rope in the littlies for these things. I can imagine if that was one of my sons reading I would be both proud of him, and disgusted with our species. Sometimes the things we have to teach children about life seem like a series of telegrams bearing bad news.

Later we all went along to the Anzac march. On our way up Victoria Street we walked past the marshalling point. Old diggers struggled out of cabs, or sat quietly in buses waiting for their cues. One snowy-haired gent was trying to get a recalcitrant sword into a scabbard - he must have been a major at least, or he's putting on airs.

Who should march is an interesting debate, but in the end it is for the veterans to tell us who they will accept beside them. In twenty years time, if I want to march because I was in the Army Reserve for six months and my grandfather fought in New Guinea, someone will have to draw a line including or excluding me. I would hope by that time we have stopped adding new categories to the back of the parade, because there will be no more wars.

Perhaps they should put up a little obelisk somewhere for people who manage to stop wars getting going in the first place. I'd go there at dawn too.

We bumped into Rob and Mel and Olivia, and shared the parade. It seemed shorter than last year to me. Rob's favourite was the Field Hygiene Unit.

Rob and I topped off the 25th by going to see Kokoda, a new Australian film about the experience of a small group of Australian soldiers, in the battle to push back the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea, in WW2. My Poppa Frank Jackson fought in New Guinea. The movie was well made, and quite moving. The final address to the battered survivors by an officer (played by William McInnes) is very emotional. At the end though I felt like I had been through a pretty standard war movie, that happened to be about an Australian experience.

I am always suspicious of Australian claims to special status as warriors. I am sure everyone from the Italians to the Iraqis say the same of themselves. I suppose the one special thing that can be said about the Australian effort at Kokoda is that it was the first time in the war the Japanese had been turned back.

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