FOR most Australians, Anzac Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for Australia’s freedom.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians wake before the sun to attend dawn services as a show of respect and to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting around the world. It’s also a welcome public holiday.
Most of us know the origin of the Anzac spirit was forged when Australian and New Zealand soldiers met fierce resistance at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
But how many Australians could tell you what “lest” means, or why the red poppy is the symbol of remembrance? How many know why we eat Anzac cookies or why two-up is the national sport at RSLs around the country?
‘LEST WE FORGET’
The Ode of Remembrance ends with those three words: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget”. However, they were not part of the original version, first published in 1914.
Most Australians would be familiar with the phrase but how many know what the Middle English word “lest” actually means?
Oxford describes it as: “With the intention of preventing something undesirable”, but the word is pretty much interchangeable with “in case”. So it’s a kind of strange, circular statement: “We will remember them, in case we forget to remember them.”
WHY THE POPPY?
The red poppy, pinned to the breast of Aussies on Anzac Day, is a symbol of war remembrance and of Armistice on November 11, 1918.
According to the Australian War Memorial, the red poppy or Flanders poppy, was among the first plants to spring up in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium after the war.
The sighting was the inspiration for Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem In Flanders fields, a poem often recited during Anzac Day ceremonies.
WHY DO WE CALL THEM ANZAC BISCUITS?
Made from ingredients including rolled outs, sugar, plain flour and butter, the Anzac biscuit, otherwise known as the “army biscuit”, was a staple for soldiers during the World War I.
It was eaten as a substitute for bread because, unlike bread, it had a long shelf-life. Not everybody loved the original Anzac biscuit, however. Father John Fahey, a Catholic father serving at Gallipoli, wrote: “The man who invented the army biscuit was an unmitigated rascal. As an eatable there is little to choose between it and a seasoned jarrah board.”
THE DANCE OF TWO PENNIES
The game is as simple as they come. A spinner tosses two coins into the air. Players gamble on how the coins will fall. They can choose two heads, two tails or one of each.
It finds its home in pubs around the country on Anzac Day for a reason. It was played by our diggers in World War I.
In black and white photographs, Anzacs in the battlefields of Europe can be seen huddling around the spinner.
Two-up is officially illegal in most places around Australia except on Anzac Day. Broken Hill in NSW is the only place you can play two-up all year round.
Aaron Pegram, a senior historian for the Australian War Memorial, told Huffington Post the game became popular with diggers because “the war is 99 per cent boredom and that 1 (per cent) absolute, absolute fear”. There was another reason, he said.
“The second reason is because Australian troops in the First World War were among the highest paid in the British Empire,” he said.
“In fact, they were the highest paid troops in the First World War irrespective of nationality. So they had a lot of disposable income to spend on gambling.”
More than 8000 Australians died at Gallipoli. The Australian War Memorial official records show more than 61,000 Australians died during the World War I, almost 40,000 died during the World War II and more than 500 died during the Vietnam War.
Other Australian casualties were suffered in the Korean War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lest we forget.