War sucks but sometimes necessary: Anzac day in Australia

Today (or tomorrow, depending on your time zone) is Anzac Day, which is supposed to celebrate the Australia New Zealand Army Corp.

It’s sorta grim, because Anzac Day commemorates the battle of Gallipoli in World War 1, between  April 25, 1915 and Jan. 9, 1916, which was a colossal failure.

The campaign, says wiki, was the first major battle undertaken in the war by Australia and New Zealand, and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both of these countries.

Anzac Day remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand, surpassing doug.in.a.yearArmistice Day/Remembrance Day

Chapman and his girl and me were in Sydney in 2002 at Bondi Beach, on an unseasonably warm Anzac Day, after hanging out with some food safety folks.

We didn’t understand why everyone had the day off and was partying, but didn’t mind.

The song Waltzing Matilda is Australia‘s most widely known bush ballad and has been referred to as “the unofficial national anthem of Australia.”

The title is Australian slang for travelling by foot with one’s goods (waltzing, derived from the German auf der Walz) in a “Matilda” (bag) slung over one’s back. The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or “swagman“, making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep’s owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft, the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, after which his ghost haunts the site.

The original lyrics were written in 1895 by poet and nationalist Banjo Paterson. It was first published as sheet music in 1903. Extensive folklore surrounds the song and the process of its creation, to the extent that the song has its own museum, the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, Queensland.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is a song written by Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971, which resonates more with folks who don’t remember swagmen (that’s me, above right, in one year).

The song describes war as futile and gruesome, while criticizing those who seek to glorify it.

In Brisbane, the mood in Anzac Square in Brisbane’s inner city is quiet and reflective as flags are lowered at half-mast. 

I’d rather be there than Kansas.