This is slightly off-topic but relevant to writing.
This week, New Zealand commemorated the 106th anniversary of Anzac Day.
For those who aren’t aware, in 1915, Australia and New Zealand soldiers landed on the shores of Gallipoli. It was the second year of the first world war. The campaign was considered important. Not just because of the loss of life – in which more than 2700 New Zealand soldiers died. It was a campaign which fostered a sense of national identity. This was what prompted the first Anzac Day on the 25th of April, 1916.
I went along to cover the Anzac Day commemoration in the town where I live. I met someone who wore the medals of a World War One soldier. The soldier died in 1915. The man I talked to had no connection whatsoever to his family. No one knew who the lost solider was. That to me illustrates the tragedy of war.
I confess I never went to an Anzac commemoration before this. Despite the fact that my great-grandfather served in World War One. He was also awarded a medal for an act of bravery. My grandfathers served in World War Two. One served at home, while the other went to Fiji. Neither one, as far as I’m aware, ever faced combat.
One of the most important phrases I learned when I was studying history was: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It was attributed to philosopher and novelist George Santayana, born in Spain in 1863.
Why is this important?
Because of what is happening in the world. Many of us fear history is repeating itself with the war in Ukraine.
What does all this have to do with writing?
Ultimately, it is up to us as writers to keep passing on those lessons. Telling the stories of the fallen soldiers. So that we can ensure that people not only understand the tragedy of war, but also do what they can to prevent such horrors.
Many veterans’ stories have been lost. This is because most New Zealanders who came back from those wars never talked about their experiences.
One day, I’d like to try to tell my great-grandfather’s story. I would have to travel to France as part of it, but I’d like to leave something behind for future generations.