They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget.
The Ode of Remembrance awakens a sense of nationalistic pride within the hearts of many Australians and New Zealanders. These words, coupled with the haunting sounds of the Last Post, evoke images of ANZAC diggers storming the beaches at Gallipoli, most not knowing that they were to meet their brutal and untimely end. Boys, valiantly fighting to protect Australia and New Zealand from a threat. The actions of these boys are seen as the birth of the Australian and New Zealand spirit, the ANZAC spirit. A mythology so ingrained into Australian culture that any attack on this myth is seen to be an attack on the country itself.
Therefore, the furore inspired by Hollywood star, and New Zealand national, Russell Crowe’s comment that the Anzacs ‘did invade a sovereign nation that we’d never had an angry word with’ at Gallipoli come as no surprise. His comment, rather than celebrate the events at Gallipoli, highlights a simple fact that is so often overlooked when discussing the ANZAC myth. Ultimately, the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli was an invasion of a sovereign nation. It was an invasion of a nation that had not previously caused Australia nor New Zealand any harm.
It appears the word invasion is what gets people upset. Australians are brought up to believe that Gallipoli was the moment our nation was born. We were brave and embodied ANZAC spirit. Furthermore, we neglect the other side of the story, the story that Turkish people may tell their children. The story that one day boats arrived on their shore and killed their people; they had never seen those people before. Are we therefore dealing with conflicting perspectives? Does the word invasion attack the myth and image of ANZAC bravery in a way too hard to handle? Is the stability of the ANZAC myth at risk when people begin to chip away at its exterior, revealing other perspectives on the matter? Is it unacceptable to recognise that we have a national day of commemoration where our troops landed on sovereign nation soil with the intention of killing their nationals?
If the events of Gallipoli had occurred on ANZAC soil, would we consider it appropriate for another country to laud it? Of course not. We would label it an invasion, an unprovoked act of war. Yet our ANZAC troops at Gallipoli were freedom fighters, defending the Crown. But to the Turkish they were foreign hostile soldiers, intending to maim and kill them on their sovereign land.
The loss of lives at Gallipoli was tragic. Encouraging the ANZAC myth through the admonishment of certain words is a misguided form of patriotism. While this senseless act of war and consequent loss of life should be commemorated, the facts of Gallipoli should not be skewed to support patriotic or nationalistic tendencies. Lest we forget.
Erica Dodd is a full-time language lover by day and a part-time Genius by night. Her area of expertise is variationist linguistics, in particular gendered language use.