Some are speculating that this year’s 98th celebration of ANZAC Day could be one of the biggest ever. The curious thing is that more and more young people are getting up very early in the morning to take part in the traditional ANZAC dawn service. This year tens of thousands will make the pilgrimage to Turkey to commemorate the heroic landing of our troops at ANZAC Cove.
One could argue that the battle for Gallipoli was one of the greatest disasters of World War I. Why then are young people in their droves so interested in this part of Australia’s story? Could it possibly be a search to understand what made our forefathers the men they were? After all, it is only as you understand who your father was, that you begin to understand who you are. As Michel Marriott says,
“Life’s journey is circular it appears. The years don’t carry us away from our fathers – they return us to them.”
At every ANZAC march, it is so moving to see old men, grandfathers, being pushed in wheelchairs or assisted as they walk along the street by their sons, daughters and often their grandchildren. Surely this is a fulfilment of the ancient command, ‘To honour your father and mother’. Another way you can honour your forefathers is to tell your children the exploits of Australia’s heroes in your own words.
One such hero was ‘Fighting’ McKenzie, an ANZAC chaplain. After WW I ‘Mac’ was the most famous man in Australia. He could not walk three blocks in the middle of Sydney without being mobbed by well-wishers, many of them mothers who had received handwritten letters of condolence and comfort from this man who had been present at the death of their sons. By the end of the war McKenzie had served the ANZACs in Gallipoli, the Middle East, the Somme, Pozieres and Passchendaele.
‘Fighting’ McKenzie took part in the charge at Lone Pine, armed with only a shovel. His ‘boys’ pleaded with him to stay behind in the safety of the trench but he replied: “Boys, I have lived with you, I’ve preached to you and I’ve prayed with you. Do you think I am afraid to die with you?” Keith Murdoch, a war correspondent of the day, said of McKenzie,
“The diggers loved him, describing him as: ‘big-hearted, incorruptible, considerate of others, one of the bravest of the brave, a friend of sinners . . .”
He was summoned to Buckingham Palace by King George to be presented with the Military Cross. Twice he was recommended for a Victoria Cross but the officers died in battle before they could file their nominations. These are the stories worth telling to our children because they give a rare insight into the reason why ANZAC Day is perhaps the most sacred day of the year to the average Australian.
Tell the story to your children. The story of Fighting McKenzie is the story of love and no greater love has a man for his friends than he lay down his life for them.
Yours for Honouring our forefathers