ANZAC Day Service in Warsaw, Poland - 99th Anniversary Service - 25th April 2014

Click on photographs to enlarge - superior rendition (Leica)

Polish Guard at the beginning of the ANZAC Service. Note the iconic Polish sabre held aloft

Many Australians would find it surprising perhaps to discover that an Anzac Day Service has taken place here in Warsaw for some years. It is normally held in Pilsudski Square (Plac Pilsudskiego) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 11.00am.

The beautiful Saxon Gardens Warsaw in Spring
I have always felt that the broad notion of 'allies betrayed' has bound Poles, Australians and New Zealanders together in spirit however complex and many-sided the actual historical truth. The three nationalities, allies in war but apparently so different, share a love of risk, a healthy disdain for authority, a sense of comradeship and committed emotional sentiment in many campaigns of war which required formidable heroism against impossible odds. In fact during World War II Poles, Australians and New Zealanders fought side by side at the appalling Battle of Monte Cassino. The Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade fought alongside Australian troops at the Siege of Tobruk. Three surviving members of the Brigade took part in this year's ceremony.  A small number of bemused Poles and wide-eyed school-children always assemble to watch this puzzling (for them) ceremony.

Two veterans from the Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division who fought alongside Australian troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino remembering the 70th Anniversary of the Battle. Their insignia is a pine tree set against the Polish flag embraced by a laurel wreath
H.E. Jean Dunn Ambassador of Australia in conversation with Group Captain David Houghton the
 British Defence Attaché
H.E.Wendy Hilton Ambassador of New Zealand happily ensconced with three veterans of the
Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division
The wreaths are assembled

Three veterans of the Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division who fought alongside Australian troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino prepare to lay their wreath

H.E. Jean Dunne the Australian Ambassador signs the book of Remembrance after reading the moving poem

The Last To Leave by Leon Gellert

Leon Maxwell Gellert (1892-1977) soldier, poet and journalist was born and educated in Adelaide, Australia. 'Dancing and singing' he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a private in 10th AIF. On October 22 1914, as a lance sergeant, Gellert and the 10th Battalion set off for Egypt. 

Gellert wrote poetry in Cairo and this activity increased when he left for the Dardanelles. For seven weeks, his battalion was kept in reserve on their troop ship before being ordered to land at Ari Burnu beach at dawn on April 25. 

Gellert survived nine weeks on Gallipoli. Wounded by shrapnel, and suffering from septicaemia and dysentery, he was evacuated to Malta in July and thence to London. This is where most of his poems were written, including this poem The Last to LeaveHe was diagnosed as having epilepsy, repatriated and discharged medically unfit on 30 June 1916. In the best of his verse Gellert used everyday language to express what would later be termed 'a perplexed disillusionment with the soldier's lot'. [Adapted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography]

                       Officers of the United States, Poland, Britain and Canada exchange pleasantries after the Service

               Two young boys wonder at the wreaths laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pilsudski Square Warsaw. Let us fervently hope they never have to face any war that has given rise to such memorials

A model of the projected massive reconstruction of the Saxon Palace which stood on this site before its systematic destruction during 
World War II

Michael Moran at the ANZAC ceremony (no, not a 'selfie' - I abhor the idea).
I was in the RAAF OTC (Royal Australian Air Force Officer Training Corps) at my GPS school in Sydney -  St. Joseph's College Hunters Hill - better known as 'Joey's' - and am wearing my old cerise and blue school tie.
Each day I thank God I belong to that rare privileged generation who has never experienced the unspeakable horrors and deprivations of  trench warfare in the Great War or for that matter any World War.

And then home in the evening to watch the movie masterpiece Gallipoli (1981) directed by Peter Weir, a film which encapsulates everything concerning the spirit of ANZAC and many of the qualities that being an Australian male entails.  As Mel Gibson who starred in it points out in an interview, a film that entertains, educates and uplifts spiritually - in short a complete work of art.

If one has a strong enough stomach one can read in excruciating detail of the full communication and slaughterous shambles and incompetence of the various landings on the peninsula by ANZACS, the British and the French as well as the often ignored but enormous Turkish casualties in the recent book Gallipoli by Peter Hart (London 2011). The many personal accounts that the author selects from the diaries and letters of officers and men brings this book gruelingly alive and immediate. Compulsive reading. 

This link may be of interest as my Norwegian great-uncle-in-law landed at Anzac Cove and fought at the notorious and horrifying Quinn's Post on Gallipoli. I am at present planning a book focused on his contribution to the campaign based on his detailed diaries and obsessive enthusiasm for soldiering.

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