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Anzac Crowds Worldwide

  • April 26th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

menin-gate.jpgAnzac Day commemorations overseas this year saw an extension of the trend to bigger numbers attending, including many young people, especially in Europe.

More than 200 Australians and New Zealanders attended services around Ieper in the Flanders region of Belgium – where Australians fought in the World War1 Battle of Passchendaele.

The Australian Ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, Alan Thomas, said at Ieper that more Australians, especially younger ones, took a personal interest each year.

“They do, and I think one special thing is the increasing element of youth participation in Anzac Day ceremonies around the world, giving speeches, taking part in wreath layings and so forth.

“You’ll see that from the numbers here today.

“The whole Anzac spirit transcends the generations and indeed it brings the generations together”, Dr Thomas said.

A representative of the Belgian British Torch Association which welcomes visitors, Thierry Van Paamel, said he had seen that some of the new arrivals went through a moment of realisation when they saw the thousands of war graves.

“They were like on a vacation, but when they were at these enormous cemeteries, they saw the dates and the ages of citizens from home, lying there, and they were the same age as themselves,” he said.

“That was a shock to them.”

Three Rotary exchange students from Australian schools were part of the crowd:

• “To me it’s really special to come here and see that the things I have learned about actually happened. It gives you a new understanding of it and makes it more personal, I think.” (Sarah Dobinson, Newcastle)

• “My great grandfather was an Anzac who fought here so I’d already learned a fair amount about it from my family. I was quite moved by the fact that so many people gave their lives here.” (John Dexter, Adelaide)

• “It’s just an amazing experience to be able to actually go to the place where certain things have happened. I’m actually the first in the family to be able to come back here. A lot of Australians came from Europe, way back, and I feel very at home here.” (Angus Amber, Sydney).

Municipal authorities, regional historians and museum curators in the Flanders region have been moved to additional action by the growing numbers of visitors each year, from all of the allied countries of World War 1.

They have been concentrating on excavations of bunkers and dugouts, and improving facilities to explain the battlefields, like the audio-visual equipped new Visitors’ Centre, to be officially opened at the Tyne Cot cemetery later this year.

They point out that remembrance is at the heart of the new tourist industry developing in the battlefields region, and say that gives it true value.

Each year the remains of another fifty soldiers are found in unmarked graves in Flanders.

Anzac Day draws the name from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) formed at the beginning of the First World War, which took part in the ill-fated Gallipoli landings in Turkey, in 1915. They attacked on the 25th April, and the date is kept for national remembrance each year by both countries. After Gallipoli the “Anzacs” served with distinction in the Middle East and especially on the Western Front in Europe. Just under 60 000 lost their lives in the Great War.

Picture: Official party at the Menin Gate memorial, Ieper, 25.4.07