Monday, 20 April 2015

ANZAC Day 50 years ago: Sydney marks 50 years since the Gallipoli Landing (1965)

To mark ANZAC Day this week and the 100th anniversary since Australian troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli in Turkey.  I came across some material from The Daily Telegraph half a century ago when Sydney marked its 50th anniversary.



Page 1 of  The Daily Telegraph  (April 26, 1965) shows the marchers proceeding down Martin Place past the Cenotaph. 
   
In 1965, Australia had military advisors present in Vietnam to assist the South Vietnam army in their war with the north. Australian servicemen were serving in Malaysian Borneo alongside the British and Malaysians in protecting population centres from Indonesian attacks. Just a few months earlier, a conscription lottery for national service had been introduced, where 20-year-old men were required to serve in the army if they were selected according to their birthday. This was done in order to provide a suitable defense force to battle the hostilities in Asia that had been triggered by the spread of Communism.


Photo spread from Pages 16 and 17 of The Daily Telegraph on April 26 1965.

The timing of ANZAC Day this year has caused a fuss for some because it falls on a Saturday and people will not get a public holiday on the following Monday to make up for it. In 1965, it fell on a Sunday and it was led by the churches. For the churches, they were unimpressed by the decision by the RSL to allow marches during the morning because it would prevent people from attending regular Church services. In previous instances where ANZAC Day fell on a Sunday like in 1948 and 1954, commemoration services were moved to the afternoons to allow people to attend Church services in the morning.

For the 50th anniversary, there were the typical ceremonies that makeup ANZAC Day in Sydney including the dawn service and the march. It followed the same route as today, except they started at the Macquarie Street end of Martin Place, not at the intersection with Pitt Street where it starts today. The front page of the The Daily Telegraph from April 26 below shows the veterans marching past the Cenotaph. Four days later on April 29, Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies announced that combat troops would be sent to Vietnam. The first wave of servicemen left at the end of May on the HMAS Sydney, arriving in Vietnam on June 10, 1965. Australia would be involved in the conflict until 1972. 50 000 served their nation with 508 killed.

In the years that were to follow, the servicemen from World War I and II had diminished in ranks and some had questioned the relevance of ANZAC Day.

Meanwhile, the opposition to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War by Australian society led to public shaming of Vietnam Veterans, even though the majority were forced to fight even if it went against their beliefs.

However, in the 1980's there was a resurgence in the ANZAC Legend but also increasing appreciation of the efforts of servicemen in all conflicts.

In 1981, Peter Weir directed the feature film Gallipoli featuring the rising star Mel Gibson. The movie is about two runners from Western Australia who decide to fight in World War I and were sent to Gallipoli. Though the story was fictional, it was an attempt to show the conditions and experiences that the real fighters would have experienced at the time.

Meanwhile, Vietnam veterans fought for their recognition for their services. For instance, Redgum's "When I was Only 19" (1983) bought home to Australian's the challenges that the young servicemen were forced to endure not just during their service in Vietnam, but in the years that followed including the physical and psychological traumas that came from fighting in war.

 

Normie Rowe, who was forced to stop his music career in 1967 to serve in Vietnam pushed for a welcome home parade which took place in Sydney in 1987. I do plan at some point to look at that parade itself. 




As we headed into the 1990's and the first decades of the 21st century, crowds attending ANZAC Day events have surged to record attendances. In recent years as many as 25 000 gather for the Dawn Service at the Cenotaph in Martin Place. In fact, the crowds have spilled several blocks to the east. Crowds estimated at 100 000 gather along the parade route to watch 20 000 veterans and their descendant's march.

I wonder what 2015 will bring. Many events are planned in addition to the traditional ceremonies. I look forward to hopefully covering it at some point in the future.