By David Young
Australians and New Zealanders are not very thick on the ground in Panama, but the few that are here will be gathering on April 25 to mark a day in their joint histories that left them with chilling but proud memories.
At dawn on April 25, 1915, allied forces, including Australians and New Zealanders who has been training in Egypt, landed at Gallipoli in what was to be a fast diversionary tactic to remove Germany’s ally, Turkey from World War I. The landing was to be followed by a march on Constantinople to create a route to give support to the Russians on the Eastern Front, and relieve the allied forces bogged down in the trenches of the Western Front straggling across Europe.
Instead the Winston Churchill conceived plan became a naval and military disaster, leading to the deaths of scores of thousands on either side, and the ultimate withdrawal of the allied forces after eight months of hell on mountainous terrain of the peninsular overlooking the Dardanelles.
In the midst of that hell volunteers from the southern island nations in a force known as Anzacs (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) were indeed thick on the ground. Their total casualties were 47,053 of whom 11,430 were killed. For two countries with small populations the affect was devastating, but it marked the birth of national consciousness in what were then known as British Dominions.
A year after the landing, the first Anzac Day was held in Australia and New Zealand, with parades attended by many of the wounded accompanied by nurses. Tgose who survived without serious injury were in the trenches in France. After the war, Anzac Day became a national holiday with ceremonies commemorating Gallipoli every year.
In time it became a memorial day for all who died in wars h WW I, WW II, , Korea, Vietnam, and regional conflicts since. Although Remembrance Day, November 11, is also marked, it has never affected the populations in the same way as Anzac Day.
In Australia,followiing dawn ceremonies matching thehour the first Gallipoli landings were made, and when soldiers “stand to”, a popular tradition is the 'gunfire breakfast' with coffee laced with rum, recalling the 'breakfast' taken by many soldiers before going over the top. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen meet and join in marches through the major cities and towns.
In Panama, Aussies and Kiwis plan to gather at a more reasonable hour, to mark Anzac Day The place is Paddy Mick’s Irish Bar, just in front of the Holiday Inn in the Ciudad del Saber (Clayton) where some thanks will be offered to the men and women who lost their lives at Gallipoli and in other theatres of war
There is easy parking and it is a relaxed, informal venue. “Please come along” says organizer Kylie Ellis - 6672 2934