Anzac Day 2016
ANZAC Day, Dawn service 2016.
It was cool and still in pre-dawn Abu Dhabi. The lavish surroundings of the Fairmont Bab al Bahr a juxtaposition for the ceremony about to take place.
In 1915, in what would now be only a few hours flight away from the Fairmont’s manicured lawns, the brave and tenacious Australian and New Zealand armed forces had stormed onto the beach at Gallipoli and were met with an equally gallant and tenacious Turkish foe.
Here in Abu Dhabi, on April 25th, 2016, the crowd hushed as the combined Australian Defence Force and New Zealand Defence Force catafalque party was ordered to mount.
In a moving speech, Australian Ambassador to the UAE, H.E. Arthur Spyrou recognised the sacrifices made by those who fought at what is now known as ANZAC cove, and the sacrifice and efforts of all ANZACs who have served since 1915, and still serve, in military roles across the world. H.E. Spyrou spoke of his own family’s connection to this year’s centenary of the Western front; describing the helplessness and brutality of war through the experience of Horace Stevenson, a relative lost in the barbed wire and horror of World War 1. Moving to a more contemporary conflict and so recognising the country in which we as expats have the opportunity to safely enjoy, H.E. Spyrou also honoured members of the UAE defence force who have given their lives to protect their country.
New Zealand Ambassador to the UAE, H.E. Jeremy Clarke-Watson added to H.E. Spyrou’s sentiments by recognising the deep bond of mateship between Australia and New Zealand. He noted that while there has always be a friendly rivalry between the countries, Australia and New Zealand share the experience of national identity that has become part of the ANZAC legend.
As the last of the dignitaries to approach the lectern, H.E. Mustafa Levant Bilgen, Turkish Ambassador to the UAE, spoke of the loss of life on all sides of the conflict. Reminding those gathered for the service that Turkey also sees the campaign as a defining moment in Turkish history. For Turkey, the leadership and success of Mustafa Kemal (Kemal Atatürk) and his troops formed a foundation that allowed Turkey to gain independence in 1923 – just eight years after ANZAC and allied troops were forced to withdraw from Gallipoli.
However, his tone toward those who sought to assault his country more than a century ago was not one of bitterness, but one of reverence. A tone that was first articulated by Kemal Atatürk, in his 1934 poem to the mothers of those lost in the fighting. Read in full by H.E. Bilgen, it concludes with a heartfelt recognition of the cost of war: “You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are at peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
Along with the dignitaries of the many nations in attendance at this 101st commemoration of ANZAC day, we at the Australian Business Group proudly recognise the efforts and sacrifice of all our service men and women.
We are also grateful for the freedom that such sacrifices offer us to be able to celebrate the ANZAC spirit in a land so far away from our homes.