This Anzac Day will mark the 100th anniversary of a campaign that helped forge the Australian nation.
In 1915, at Gallipoli, the Anzacs fought against impossible odds, in impossible terrain, to achieve an impossible task. Some of the soldiers were just boys, some old men. Thousands fell, and remain buried on the Turkish peninsula, abandoned when the expeditionary force was forced to retreat.
With Remembrance Day (November 11) Anzac Day has become one of the two days on which Australians and New Zealanders honour and remember all who served, but April 25 marks, especially, a time to reflect on the sacrifice and bravery displayed on the beaches and hills of Gallipoli.
No First World War veterans remain, but the descendants of the fallen, and of those who returned, are among those who mark the day. The Strauch family is one of many who will attend the dawn service on Saturday to represent their heroes and their service.
Val Strauch’s grandfather fought at Gallipoli, her father served with the Australian army and her husband John was also enlisted. ANZAC Day and the dawn service will bring a mixture of different emotions for Mrs Strauch. “It will no doubt be an emotional morning, pride, sadness, honour and who knows what else. I am going with my daughter and granddaughter so it should be an amazing experience.”
Mrs Strauch said it is hard to believe it was 100 years ago that her grandfather served. “I am so incredibly proud to talk about how my grandfather served in Gallipoli, it’s amazing to think about what he may have gone through for our freedom and to be able to say that my family fought so bravely is amazing.
“He brings my family name such pride and honour, I think about him all the time but this time of year there’s no doubt I think about him in a different way, I think about what he sacrificed for his country. I also think of my father and what he achieved with the army, no matter what happens my family will always have that to be proud of,” Mrs Strauch continued.
“To think that my grandfather, father and husband all served is amazing. It gives me great joy to look at my husband and be able to say that he served, to look at the photos on my mantlepiece and see my family in their uniforms, it is very hard to put into words how it makes me feel”.
Her husband John will accompany her at the dawn service and said he is uncertain of his emotions. “I could very well break down in tears or I could stand there with pride, I may not be in the best [physical] shape anymore but there is just something about the dawn service that makes the aches and pains go away.
“Anzac Day represents much more than just Gallipoli now, with most people being too young to have family that went. People are starting to use the day to reflect on any service that affects them and their families, which is great,” Mr Strauch said.
Mr Strauch is a proud to be a part of the group of individuals who served their country. “To be able to say that I am a part of a small group of people to have served their country is one of my greatest honours, even if it’s a small role or if you served for your whole life, the feeling of belonging you get to these people and the feeling of pride you get on Anzac Day is just something that can never be matched.”
Anzac Day gives Australians and New Zealanders the opportunity to say thank you; to say we appreciate what men and women in the armed forces have done and continue to do, and a chance to say Lest We Forget. – Jake Benoiton
Top photo of medals from Mrs Strauch’s family by Jake Benoiton.