Lone Pine Backflip

It is rare that I agree with any idea advanced by the Liberal/National COALition but I had no problem with the recent decision to abandon the Lone Pine ceremony at Gallipoli on Anzac Day. Quite frankly the Dawn Service at Anzac is enough to commemorate the campaign and all that occurred within it. How many prompts for reflection do we really need? Predictably the RSL and shock jocks got their knickers in a knot over the issue. Bill Shorten, thinking he was on a winner, declared we should never forget the Anzacs and shot off a letter to the PM.

The government has now compromised and will offer a wreath laying ceremony at Lone Pine on Anzac Day eve as well as holding a formal ceremony on the anniversary of the battle’s commencement on 6 August. The latter offering surely renders the former unnecessary and is a more appropriate date.

The only argument I have heard for why a ceremony ought to be held at Lone Pine at all is that lots of Australians were killed there and that we should never forget their sacrifice. Lots of Australians were killed in lots of places over the course of two world wars so what makes the sacrifice at Lone Pine any more special than any other battle. I am not hearing any clamour to institute a service at Krithia in which the Australian 2nd Brigade and New Zealand Infantry Brigade suffered as severely three months beforehand.

There are a host of other battlefield sites where similar numbers of Australians became casualties at which no grand formal ceremony are held. To be honest the visitor experience to Gallipoli will only be enhanced by the removal of the Lone Pine ceremony as it will mean the removal of one mini sized football stadium from the battlefield. The stands that are erected at North Beach, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair on Anzac Day really do impair the natural aesthetic of the place and prevent a true appreciation of the ground. At last year’s centenary commemoration at Anzac I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of a number of historians and battlefield guides with strong links to the Australian Army. Rather than holding to the conservative views of right wing patriots that I feared they might do, they provided a refreshingly cynical view.

They were appalled at the chauvinistic tenor of the commemorations and a running gag at the breakfast table was of an idea to create a stage play – ANZAC the musical. The truth is the whole Anzac commemoration push has become a bit of a circus and the more that is done to strip it back the greater will be its integrity.