ANZAC Day Centenary Reflection

Not a celebration.

Maybe a commemoration.

From my perspective, honouring all those on all sides who fought and died in such a futile conflict; equally those who died or who were unalterably damaged by that stupid stupid war.

The war to end all wars.

If only.

To my shame, I admit I knew nothing about the Australian poet-soldier, who was one of the Gallipoli contingent, Leon Gellert, until this evening.

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Gellert is generally regarded as Australia’s finest war poet – ‘the Rupert Brooke of the Australian Imperial Force’. according to his biographer (and a former Herald colleague), Gavin Souter. Leon Maxwell Gellert, born in Adelaide in May 1892, was the grandson of a schoolmaster who had emigrated from Hungary.

He enlisted in the AIF on August 22, 1914, eighteen days after Britain had declared war on Germany. For seven weeks his battalion was kept in reserve on its troop ship before being ordered to land at Ari Burnu beach at dawn on April 25.

Gellert survived nine weeks on Gallipoli before coming down with dysentery. Evacuated to Malta, he contracted typhoid and was sent to England to convalesce. His reputation was made when his collection of fifty-five poems – Songs of a Campaign including Before Action, The Return, War!, The Death and The Attack at Dawn – was published.

After editing the prestigious Art in Australia magazine, Gellert moved to Sydney and joined The Sydney Morning Herald in 1942, initially as magazine editor, then as literary editor.

Here are two of his poems. By way of introduction, however:

These poems . . . were written by 23-year-old Australian soldier-poet Leon Gellert, from Adelaide, a combatant at Gallipoli, to mark the evacuation of the peninsula in 1915.

Nine decades after Gellert penned those lines, his poem The Last to Leave was chosen as the emotional centrepiece of the unveiling ceremony of the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 2003 in front the Queen.


The Jester in the Trench

‘That just reminds me of a yarn,’ he said;
And everybody turned to hear his tale.
He had a thousand yarns inside his head.
They waited for him, ready with their mirth
And creeping smiles, — then suddenly turned pale,
Grew still, and gazed upon the earth.
They heard no tale. No further word was said.
And with his untold fun,
Half leaning on his gun,
They left him — dead.

And last,

The Last to Leave

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, “What of these?’ and “What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully

I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened – all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.

107 thoughts on “ANZAC Day Centenary Reflection

  1. That old saw : “Birds of a feather flock together”..has been well proved by this coterie of goons that we are stuck with as a “gov’t” where NOT ONE has the courage of their convictions to step away from the very cruelty that we today condemn with remembrance of those who fought against such in many wars.

    Not one of those LNP. morons who with grotesque mimicry weep hypocritical tears of sympathy on this of all days, would raise protest against the besmirching the reputation of ours and those who have fallen with the continued abuse of those who seek shelter upon our shores.

    They are a disgrace to our nation, our very soil and our honoured fallen.

  2. Interesting developments at Kilauea volcano in Hawaii; I’d like to see lava spill out onto the crater floor, but chances are it will open a new fissure in the Eastern Rift Zone where seismic activity is somewhat elevated.

  3. This “gov’t” is a complete shambles…think about it..: They have no taxation policy, no discernable infrastructure policy, no NBN policy (just ad hoc development), no climate change policy (direct action?..puleese!), budget a shambles and now preparing , I think!, another one to drop on top of the last failure…foreign policy on the run a PM. who’s balls are in the vice-like grip of his chief of staff, a complete oleaginous obsequious ministry at the mercy of a foreign media mogul, the mining and banks and media and general business sector drawing up their policy direction and the whole she-bang chaotic mob on their bended knees in reverence to Vishnu’s juggernaut!
    God!…what a bloody fiasco!

  4. It’s as if the Western Front of WW-I, Beersheba, Kokoda, Milne Bay, Balikpapan, Syria, Tobruk, the Australian crews of the RAF, the Burma Railroad Death Marches, and all the rest just never happened.

    This is a serious misconstruction and skewing of history.

    Anzackery has reached new… depths.

  5. So the march to the National war memorial was led by an artillery piece….and so the masses followed in the wake of the gun…

  6. The Honey Bear of Balikpapan:

    Another place to see is Tugu Australia, located near Strand Banua Patra Beach Balikpapan. This is a monument to remember and to respect the Australian troops who fought the Japanese who invaded Indonesia in old days. At Tugu Australia, there’s a plate where you can read the whole history of the Battle of Balikpapan in 1945, written in both English and Indonesian.


  8. ” The union royal commission will investigate the involvement of senior union officials in the ALP and whether their conduct conflicts with their duties.”

    Can’t wait for the follow-up into the ; IPA, News Ltd. Gina inc. and the Tea Party etc.

  9. ” Due to the late-finish of the Turkish service the prime minister’s planned speech to pilgrims at Anzac Cove ahead of Saturday’s dawn service was cancelled ”

    WOW!….that was one bullet that was gratefully ducked!….can you imagine??!!

  10. Hey!…five’ll get you seven someone will leak that speech and it will be a horror!

  11. Abbott has used the phrase ‘a magnificent defeat’ repeatedly over the last few days. It seems to be his newest slogan, created especially for Anzac Day. the cancelled speech must have included those words.

  12. Late finish so he didn’t attend ? Our tough guy PM couldn’t handle missing a couple of hours sleep or was it too many post service drinkies

  13. kk
    He was there, at the Turkish ceremony and a French one after that, but the Turkish one ran late, so Abbott’s planned speech to the crowd before the Dawn service had to be cancelled, for which all those attending must have been heartily grateful.

    It’s not all goods news though. The NE did get to make his address during the Dawn Service. He has kindly made the video available. Not sure I can bear watching, but if you want to –

  14. He’d probably also recycle a “joke” he told a day or so back at a business forum in Ankara . He told the audience that Australians coming to Turkey 100 years ago for very different reasons than they are today. Not sure how it went over with the audience but he thought it was good.

  15. Abbott has used the phrase ‘a magnificent defeat’ repeatedly over the last few days.

    That’ll come in handy on election eve or #libspill (whichever comes first.)

  16. I watched – ten minutes of my life wasted – I thought it was very disjointed, but maybe that was just Abbott’s horrible delivery. He sounded a bit hoarse – perhaps he has picked up a bug during his travels.

  17. l2

    He sounded a bit hoarse – perhaps he has picked up a bug during his travels.

    Long flights = dehydration.

  18. ” …an attempt by Hermann Göring’s daughter to win back her father’s assets, ”

    I’d be inclined to think THAT was a tad too sensitive a subject to go near just yet…give it a couple more years for the hard-feelings to wear off…like ..say..another couple of centuries!

  19. i marched today in the ANZAC Day March. next to Lyn Arnold. ALP Premier of SA from 1992 tp 1993. He is now a priest in the Anglican Church and does a lot of community work.

  20. Ahh, well…looks like the dressage event hasn’t been cancelled due to inclement weather, so we will be hauling the Bedford and the nags up over the ranges to Mt Crawford tomorrow…Gonna be brass-monkey weather but !..I tell you what , those dressage sheilas are tough…you don’t want to get in between them and a competition arena!…they’d ride you down in an instant…and they keep going till they’ve gotta be dragged kicking and screaming from the saddle at ninety or so !…and if it wasn’t for the zimmer-frame cramping their riding style…

    I said to the OH. a couple of months back ;

    “I’d like to “retire” from the horse business in another year or so”…

    “Oh yeah!.” she responded with the old narrowed eyes look ” ..and what are YOU gonna eat tonight?”…

    As I’ve quite often reported ; it’s everyday gourmet here in the food line…I faltered..then submitted with associated pleas of clemency… was shameful..But..a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…

    Oh well…better gird the old loins and brace the old back and doff the flannelette bogan shirt agin’ the wind !

  21. You know, thinking on it..a few years back..well..perhaps more than just a few..a multitude of years back, it was another “necessity” that would have brought me pleading to my knees..

    I’m beginning to think there’s not much to recommend this growing old business.

  22. More storms in Sydney earlier, iincluding some very nasty hail storms, severe weather warnings out for Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter. Again.

  23. Interesting little stoush taking place on Twitter tonight.

    Scott McIntyre, a journalists with SBS, has posted a series of tweets about war atrocities, and good on him for doing that. If we have to have a day for remembering those who died in wars then we need to remember ALL who died, and how they lost their lives. Like this –

    Malcolm Turnbull has found the tweets offensive. The pampered and privileged Turnbull, who has voted to send Australian troops to war, does not like being reminded of the horrors of war.

    Not everyone agrees with Turnbull.

    Chris Kenny has joined in and demanded Turnbull sack Mr MacIntyre. I can’t be bothered posting his garbage.

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