Last year, to my astonishment, the mother of one of the strangelings’ school friends expressed surprise that we, as new migrants to Australia, from New Zealand, knew all about ANZAC Day. “Why yes,” I said, “ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. New Zealanders and Australians fought together at Gallipoli.” “Oh,” she said, clearly put out.
Then there’s a turgid hymn often dragged out at ANZAC Day ceremonials, God Bless Australia, which describes Australia as “home of the ANZACs.”
Funny that. I thought a fair proportion of the ANZACs lived in New Zealand.
And there was the line in an otherwise excellent book that irritated me some more. Australian travel writer and historian Tony Perrottet wrote a fabulous account of the first age of mass tourism in the Roman Empire, Route 66 A.D., since republished as Pagan Holiday. In it, he recounts the travels he and his long suffering wife took as they traced the standard tourism routes of the rich and even middle classes in the early Roman Empire. As it turned out, these routes took in the Dardenelles, and what we now know as Anzac Cove. Like many Australians and New Zealanders, he took the time to go and remember the fallen. He mentioned that soldiers from many nations fought there, but then he says something to the effect of, “But the Australians died in great numbers.” The implication is that the Australians suffered much the greatest casualties and deaths. So with casual language, he depreciates the losses suffered by other nations.
Through the magic of google and Wiki, it’s not too difficult to find death and casualty statistics for all the nations involved in the misnamed Great War. Look here, here, and here. For your convenience, I have summarised the death and casualty rates for Australians and New Zealanders (at the time, Australia had a population of about 4.5million, and New Zealand about 1.1million).
This is not supposed to be a pissing contest, and frankly, who wants to win this kind of contest. In any case, the numbers are a little fuzzy, but only around the edges. Nevertheless, they are good enough to show that around about the same proportions of New Zealanders and Australians were killed or wounded in World War 1, and at Gallipoli.
My plea is this – that if you are commemorating Anzac Day in New Zealand, you do not forget the “A” (not that I have particularly noticed this to be the case back in the old country, but if you have different experiences, please let me know), and if you are commemorating Anzac Day in Australian, do not erase the “NZ.” They are equally important parts of the Anzac story.