ANZAC Day and its meaning for Southern Africans
by Cheryl Goodenough
Being in Australia on April 25 it is quickly evident that ANZAC Day is a significant holiday in the lives of many Australians. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and the day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC Day was officially named in 1916.
The previous year Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. The soldiers landed at Gallipoli on April 25, and were met with fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders.
After an eight month stalemate, the allied forces were evacuated at the end of 1915, but both sides had suffered heavy casualties, with more than 8,000 Australian soldiers killed. Since 1927 all Australian states have observed some form of public holiday on ANZAC Day. The meaning of the day has recently been broadened to include Australians killed in all military operations in which Australia has been involved. At dawn, which was the time of the original landing, commemorative services are held, while marches are held later in the day. The marches are held in city centres, as well as suburbs throughout Australia in order to pay respect to servicemen and women.
In recent years an organisation representing South Africans has participated in the marches and ceremonies, along with veterans from other countries throughout the world. The South African Military Veterans Organisation of Australasia (SAMVOA) is an ex-servicemen organisation comprising of military veterans who were called up or volunteered to serve South Africa in the South African Defence Force, Mkhonto we Sizwe, and the South African National Defence Force and who nowlive in Australia or New Zealand or other countries in this region.
In addition to participating in events that recognise and remember veterans, SAMVOA provides support, comradeship, fellowship and networking opportunities for veterans and particularly aged South Africans living in Australia and New Zealand. Heritage membership of SAMVOA is open to people with a parent or grandparent who served South Africa in a military capacity, but who has since passed on. Prospective members need to prove the relationship and connection.
Amongst the SAMVOA members who took part in this years ANZAC Day ceremonies was Cliff Everton who served with South Africas oldest regiment, the (Royal) Natal Carbineers, which was founded in 1854. This infantry regiment was brigaded with the 1st Battalion Transvaal Scottish and The Duke of Edinburghs Own as the 1st South African Brigade and they were the first of six South African brigades to move to North Africa in 1939, said SAMVOA national chairman Tony Macquet. Cliff spent most of his time at the front as a signaller and was involved in all the 8th Armys major battles.
Another member Tom Robinson, served in the South African Engineers Corps from 1941 to 1945 during which time he spent most of his time at the front and involved in all the 8th Armys major battles from El Alamein to Tunis. In Italy he saw action in the 4th battle of Cassino and was with the Polish Brigade that captured Bologna on April 21, 1945. As a young telegraph engineer, Toms father served on the staff of Lord Robertsin the Boer War when the telegraph was new technology! According to Tony, many SAMVOA members fought in Angola, in a conflict that was said to be larger than the battles fought in North Africa during World War 2. This saw the employment of the most advanced and sophisticated weaponry available at the time. As in the Boer War, the South African soldier proved to be too much for a numerically superior force of Cubans, Russians and Angolans and this culminated in the New York Accords peace agreement signed on December 22, 1988.
For more information about SAMVOA go to http:www.samvoa.org