April 25, 1943: ANZAC Day and Easter

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

In 1943 Anzac Day, April 25, fell on the same day as Easter.   Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

New York City saw its first public observance of Anzac Day that year as some 300 Australian airmen and sailors marched in the Easter Parade and were cheered by the crowds lining the parade route.  Anzac Day observances in Australia and New Zealand were muted that year, due to the day falling on Easter, and so many men were away fighting in the War.

American audiences had become familiar with the courage of Anzac troops by viewing the documentary Kokoda Front Line, the video at the beginning of this post, which memorialized the struggle of Australian troops fighting in New Guinea.  Damien Parer, the cinematographer on the film won an Oscar for the film in 1943.  He would die on September 17, 1944, age 32, filming Marines in combat on Peleliu

In Melbourne, Australia on Anzac Day, the US 1st Marine Division marched through the streets in honor of the day to the cheers of their Australian hosts.

Australian POWs spent a grim Anzac Day beginning the construction of a section of the Burma-Thailand railroad known as Hellfire Pass.  Japan used Allied POWS as slave labor during the War and some 13,000 Australians labored on the railroad,  approximately 2650 dying from starvation rations, disease, beatings and random murder by their captives.  Hellfire Pass alone cost the lives of 700 Allied POWs, 69 of the men being beaten to death.

In North Africa the men of the New Zealand division spent the day fighting in Tunisia as the war in North Africa was coming to a victorious close for the Allies.

On Easter Sunday and Anzac Day in 1943, much bitter fighting remained, but people in the Allied countries began to believe that the tide was beginning to turn.

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  1. Thanks Don.
    Just returned from my communion round. (12.30 pm. here)
    I checked Dad’s diary he kept in the war years. He has no entry on Anzac day 1943 – he was still in training camp in NZ; Dad was 31 years old, I was coming up 1 year old, and my brother who died 3 weeks ago was 2 -1/2. I checked Dad’s diary for 1944, and they were just going into action in Rimini in Italy on the Adriatic coast.
    Busy now – add later.

  2. Mmmm…… a bit later than I intended.

    On checking dad’s diary, they were still at sea on the troopship heading toward the theatre of war in Europe.

    I am very proud of the heritage of my forebears, particularly in relation to Gallipoli.
    Donald Vincent Piper – born Fowey, Cornwall, 27th.May 1891 – my maternal grandfather. Emigrated to NZ in 1912, joined up as soon as war was declared in 1914 – First NZ Expeditionary Force, 16th. Waikato Regiment. ( I am named after him – Donald Vincent Beckett)
    He served in the first NZ force in Gallipoli. He received shrapnel wounds in one leg, but because they were not painful, stayed on. Because he was a Cornishman, he was a tunneller. I recall as a lad, him telling me in his Cornish brogue, of how they would tunnel under “the Turk”, set explosives, set the fuse, and go like hell.
    He also served in the Trenches in France, and was sent home to NZ in 1917 after he had been wounded a second time. Entered duty as a private, returned as a 2nd Leutenant. He married Kathleen Rose Nicholson, uncle Nick’s sister.
    Eustace Charles (Nick or Eusty)) Nicholson – born NZ 1887. With his younger brother Phillip Charles Nicholson, they signed up when war was declared in 1914 and seved at Gallipoli. Uncle Nick was wounded and went to England for convalescence. He met his future wife, Charlotte Jeanne Dahlem, from Paris France, whom he later married in England and took his bride back to NZ. Uncle Nick returned to active duty in France and saw the was out, as a Sergeant Major.
    Uncle Phil Nicholson served in France as well, had a charmed life – I attended his funeral in Auckland in 1974.
    We have a Nicholson family anthology compiled by our cousins who live in Tacoma, Wa. Through the Nicholson Family, I have many relatives in the USA, originating here in NZ in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s but sadlt have lost a large degree of contact, with the exception of Bill and Carland Nicholson of Tacoma Wa.. with whom we have occasional contact.

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