Saturday, April 24, 2010

Anzac Day in Wellington

Today is Anzac Day. Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and it's similar to Memorial Day that we celebrate in the States. Anzac Day is 25 April, the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Aus and NZ in World War I. The battle was in Gallipoli in Turkey.

This year's holiday is particularly sad, as we just learned that a military helicopter crashed just 30 km north of Wellington this morning and three of the four passengers have been killed.

For us, we know it's Anzac Day when you see men in military uniforms standing around the city handing out red poppies and raising money for their cause. We'd normally get a day off work for the holiday, but this year it lands on a Sunday, so I will honour those who served from the comfort of my pajamas and living room couch.

New Zealanders remember their veterans not only through this day of remembrance, but through several monuments and memorials Jake and I have seen around NZ. Gallipoli and WWI holds a special place in NZ's heart. The image above depicts the cenotaph, or Wellington Citizen's War Memorial, which is among the most prominent in town. But another one in particular that stands out in our mind is the Atatürk Memorial that sits high above the shore on the eastern walkway, a beautiful hike that Jake and I have taken a couple of times.

Here's a bit of history, which comes from Te Manuatu Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage about how NZ now has a special bond with Turkey:

The Atatürk Memorial is situated on a ridge above Tarakena Bay, Wellington. The Memorial looks out over Cook Strait and the site was chosen for its remarkable likeness to the landscape of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Memorial is an outcome of an agreement between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand governments. In 1984, Australia asked Turkey if the cove on the Gallipoli peninsula could be renamed Anzac Cove in memory of the Australian and New Zealand troops who died there in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War One. The Turkish Government agreed to change the cove's name from Ari Burnu and also built a large monument to all those who died in the campaign. In return, the Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to build monuments in Canberra and Wellington to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who served as a divisional commander at Gallipoli and went on to become the first president of modern Turkey.

Today we are thankful for all the service men and women who sacrifice so much to keep us safe, with a special shout out to our grandparents, dads, cousins, friends and brother.


Juli Ryan said...

This morning, we woke up to see those very helicopters flying south towards Wellington. Seeing helicopters always makes me feel happy, since my own father was a helicopter pilot in the US National Guard.

I too am deeply saddened by this morning's tragic accident. Thank you for this beautiful, thoughtful post.

Phil said...

A sombre day, made doubly sad because of the deaths of those three young airforcemen. A day for remembering all those who have laid down their lives for their country.

Especially good this year to see U.S. Marines in our city streets again, helping to sell the poppies. They were here in their tens of thousands some 70 years ago when our very existence was threatened in the dark days of World War II. When New Zealand desperately needed a friend, America came to guarantee our freedom and our future.

We will never forget that.

Yer Mum said...

A very interesting commentary on some NZ history, which I read with great interest. It is always a very poignant sight and a moving observation to see a service man/woman handing out poppies. It never fails to instill a sense of pride within me, for all military and service people everywhere. As free people, we owe them everything.