Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

For sixty years Australians have responded to the "Toast to Anzac". Many speakers and innumerable writers have extolled the ethic of Gallipoli, till now it is impossible to utter something which has not already been expressed. Men of sincerity and eloquence have told the story of that first campaign, and we have thrilled to epics of Homeric courage and the tales of simple human loyalties.

There have, of course, been counter movements and reactions. Critics have derided Anzac Day as just a sentimental "binge", remote from latter century realities. A writer recently suggested that we have a final celebration while the ageing soldiers still retain mobility‑a Last Salute" and then no more. In spite of this, the popular demand is for continuation of "The Day", and Anzac stays despite the criticism and hostility.

Why should this be? It is well known that every war ends with a question, never with an answer, that the Four Great Horsemen, War and Famine, Plague and Death, ride out in company across the world when brother rends his brother man, and none can give an answer to the question, "Where is God?" Why then should we remember any day that men have criticized as gloryfying war?

While answers seldom are completely satisfactory, there are good reasons why we hold in memory this day of hope and courage from the past. The World had lived in peace since Waterloo, and tides of power had ebbed and flowed without the holocaust of universal war. In August 1914, Nations rushed light heartedly to arms with airy hopes of peace in several months. When these were dashed, and years of conflict loomed ahead, their resolution hardened and the time of bleak endurance and frustration, of attrition and blood sacrifice began.

The "War to end all Wars" became the modern Armageddon. The old romantic concept of the "Death ' or Glory" charge was dissipated in the carnage of Verdun and writers like Sassoon and Owen bared the bleeding hearts of Europe's youth. The interlude between the two World Wars became "The Wasteland" where a disillusion froze the soul and faith and optimism seemed to fade away. So what is Anzac really worth? Is there a real solution to the great unsolvable?

Despite our inability to give a verdict satisfactory to all, we would do well to ponder several facts. The two Great Wars became the first to compass all the peoples of the world and be what have been rightly called, the Global Civil Wars. Mankind became the martyr to the forces then unleashed and in the black despair of never ending hell, the one sure refuge was the dual love of God for man and each man for his brother man. These virtues and a willingness to sacrifice all selfish rights or even life itself to aid the public good, are what we call the "Anzac Spirit."

We live very pleasantly today, in spite of minor irritations. We live for many causes, but it has been questioned whether we would die for anything. Would our convictions go so far? Since Anzac Day is our small portion of the universal sorrow of mankind, let us be proud that sometime ‑ once our people set aside all personal considerations and followed an ideal.

They gave greatly of their small resources and their own few selves to serve the common good. What can we do today to equal them?

The NSW Freemason, Vol. 8, No. 6, April, 1976