As we approach ANZAC Day we are reminded daily through the images from Ukraine that war is a terrible tragedy.
ANZAC Day is the anniversary of the first campaign where Australians and New Zealanders died in war. Soldiers landed on the beach at Gallipoli on the 25th of April, 1915. Of the sixty thousand Australians who fought at Gallipoli there were 26,000 casualties and 7,594 deaths. Over 60,000 Australians in a population of 5 million died in the First World War.
Today ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for those who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.
There are 145 names on the Daylesford War Memorial commemorating those who died in war and conflict . You can find their names online, beginning with John Aldrich from Sailors Falls, a private in the 29th Infantry Battalion, who died from his wounds on the 27th of January 1917. John Aldrich went to school in Musk Vale and worked as a farm labourer. He was 21 when he died.
A century later, there are parallels. A war in Europe, a world wide pandemic and a Federal Election. In the 1922 election the then Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ Nationalist Party lost. But Labor was denied government when the Nationalists formed a coalition government with the Country Party led by Earl Page. The price for the coalition was that that much disliked Hughes resign in favour of Stanley Bruce.
Hughes originally became Prime Minister as a member of the Labor Party in 1915 but he was expelled when he sought to enforce conscription and the Labor Party split. Hughes managed to hold onto power until 1922 through an alliance with the Liberals to form the Nationalist Party. The current Coalition has its origins in the outcomes of the 1922 election.
The 1919 influenza pandemic that followed World War 1 killed up to 100 million people with 12,000 deaths in Australia. Until now, the COVID pandemic has killed an estimated 6.2 million people world wide, with 6,800 deaths in Australia.
On ANZAC Day we remember that life is fragile and we commemorate the sacrifices of those who have come before us in the hope that we will not forget them and repeat the tragedies of the past.