This coming Thursday is Anzac Day. Every year on this day my family rises early, drinks big mugs of hot chocolate and heads off to our town's Wreath laying, Parade and Service. Later we head around to have morning tea in the RSL Hall, and to watch the dwindling number of veterans drinking beer and playing two-up. The morning tea is wonderful, as only country towns and churches still provide - fresh ribbon sandwiches, homemade biscuits and cakes, and crispy sausage rolls. All washed down with hot cups of tea or coffee...or the hard stuff if you prefer on this one day of the year. The tradition of a beer with mates is iconically Strine, isn't it.? Luckily it only happens once year, or we might have a serious drinking problem on our hands. Ahem. In the late morning we head off to our favourite picnic spot - always the same place each year. We never really need more food, but we always manage to fit in a few cheeses and some chocolate. Yum.
It might sound like a nice day, and to be honest, it is, but we commemorate Anzac Day not to glorify war, but to remember . We remember not just just the soldiers who died at Anzac Cove, but we acknowledge the service of all the young men and women who have served our country in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Lest We Forget.
Each day of the couple of weeks leading up to Anzac Day, Jemimah and I read a couple of the wonderful picture books that explain this special day. You'll find our list of books here:
A Peaceful Day's Recommended Anzac Day Picture Books
I have a few excellent new books to add to the list for this year. Watch for them in coming days!
As Jemimah has grown older we have added in a chapter book as well. The Wells of Beersheba: A Lighthorse Legend by Frank Dalby Davison was a great choice one year, another we read Anthony Hill's Soldier Boy. It was good too.
This year we're reading a lovely book written in 1957 by an original Anzac, Thomas Miles, The Anzac Story for Boys and Girls. As is evident by the title, Miles wrote his book for children, but it is probably the best introduction to the Anzac legend that I have seen. If Miles took place in a battle then the experiences he describes are his own. If he was not there, he relied on C E W Bean's exhaustive tome, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18. As such, the account is accurate as only primary sources can be.
The book tells in simple, clear language the story of the Gallipoli campaign. The helpful maps are clear, and the illustrations help bring the narrative to life. I have certainly learnt a considerable amount in my reading of this book. Miles seems to have managed to avoid a common problem with factual accounts of desiccating the events into dry boring tedium, by including those bits and pieces that are fascinating to children - and their parents! It is a living book indeed.
Often we may be forgiven for believing that the Aussies Diggers managed to defeat the Turks alone. Not so. This book includes not only our neighbours, the New Zealanders, but also all the troops from other lands who took part - British, French and Indian. The Turks are also painted with respect.
The Anzac Story is our of print. All the best books are. Abe has a few copies, but if you don't managed to grab up one of those, you can also find the whole story online. If this doesn't work you should be able to find an archived version here. Some of the illustrations are not available, but the whole story is there.
I'll leave you now with a slightly updated version of the last couple of paragraphs of The Anzac Story:
Today there are no soldiers of the Great War of 1914-1918 among us. They have gone to join their comrades who fell on the battlefields of Gallipoli, Palestine, and France.
The Anzacs fought to retain our basic freedoms. Let us ensure that they did not die in vain and that the Spirit of Anzac remains with us - always.