The Effect of World War I and the Concept of Anzac Legend

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The First and Second World Wars were two of the most significant wars in recent history that profoundly shaped the world as we know it today, bringing with them waves of change in all its participants and many bystanders. Australia was no exception to this, but unlike other nations, Australia's remembrance of these events was not so much about victory but instead about the struggle of its servicemen and the legacy they left behind. The legacy these men left, the survivors and vanquished, lead to the development of a commemorative tradition not based on politics and victory but on family, heritage, respect and the values that we Australians hold dear.

When soldiers leave their homes for war, especially modem wars, those who see combat often pay one of two prices: combat will either cost them their life or their mind. This statement, while quite generalised, can somewhat appropriately be applied to the thousands of Australian servicemen who returned home following the end of the World Wars. For the servicemen who saw combat in these wars, there was one wound which none, no matter how unscathed, could avoid: the memory and experiences of war. For the Australian servicemen who saw combat in the •world Wars, the most vivid memories they held were those of death, te1Tor, destruction and violence, especially given that Australians served in the bloodiest fronts of the wars; the Western Front in WW l and the Pacific Theatre in WW2. For every soldier that survived the wars, their memories were wounds that could never be healed, and for some thousands it took a deeper psychological toll. Both mid and post-war, thousands of Australian servicemen who survived combat were afflicted with a range of mental disorders as result of combat-related stress and trauma. Ranging in their severity, these disorders included clinical depression, schizophrenia and the infamous shell shock , now known as

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is also possible that psychosis was a present affliction, given its possible association to mental stress and other stress related conditions such as the aforementioned. While many servicemen suffered from some form of minor depression post-war, those afflicted by severe mental conditions were further obstructed from a simple return to civilian life as their conditions afflicted their ability to live no1mally and had their memories of war haunt them far more intensely, leading to years of personal and family hardship and sometimes culminating in a premature end via suicide.

While countless ex-servicemen suffered from clinical mental illness as a result of their sca1Ting experiences in combat, a large number were able to settle back into civilian life without the severe suffering others experienced. Post-war, many returned servicemen struggled to find employment due to higher rates of female employment, lack of job security and a lack in sense of direction in a society so different to that of the war they'd returned from. For these servicemen, the process of re-adapting was still difficult, especially for the many wounded and crippled who now required extra support and compensation. Despite

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these difficulties, many soldiers successfully repatriated thanks to the support of their families and the assistance of the Returned and Services League who upheld veterans' care and

compensation in Australia. This repatriation is not to imply, however, that the horrid memories of war were absent from the veterans' minds, with such being far from the case.

While fair numbers of ex-soldiers spoke openly about their experiences as a form of

self-therapy, many more simply locked their memories away. For these men, the war was too uncomfortable, stressful and dark a topic to discuss. It was a taboo for them, something never worth reflecting on. While always followed by their memories, these servicemen hid their demons away from friends and family, trying to live beyond their time in war and taking the majority of their story to the grave.

As previously stated, Australia does not truly derive its meaning of commemoration through the honouring of war and victory, but instead gains meaning from the honouring of the servicemen who fought those great wars and who left behind legacies, principles and values to commemorate. Through the great struggle of those past servicemen, commemoration develops a core principle of heritage. This heritage derived from the ANZAC legend forms a core component of Australia's national history and the history of many of its family units.

Through the great sacrifices of diggers past, Australians now recognise the impacts and contributions made that mold how Australians know their nation today. As fellow countrymen and women, Australians pay their respects to these servicemen whose efforts in war are now carved into the history books, whose acclaim fills a nation with an inherited pride and whose memory is preserved, nurtured and honoured by their living descendants for the future generations to come, immortalising their legacy after death. From the legacy that Australia commemorates, values that are central to modem Australian culture, as it’s known today, are recognised and celebrated . Chief among these are those values of mateship and fraternity. No man in history has ever fought a war alone, and it was in the two World Wars that Australian soldiers needed the comradery and mateship of their fellow soldiers to survive and know compassion in situations where such was scarce. The fraternal nature of the ANZAC legacy is also developed through Australia's historical interaction with its allies: a nation of staunch, true-hearted blokes who fought alongside their friends through thick and thin . Such fraternal principles are ones which survive within Australian culture today and within the ANZAC tradition still honoured to the present day.

In conclusion, the ANZAC legacy today's Australians currently commemorate is not a celebration of victory and war. Instead, it is a respectful tribute to the countless fellow countrymen and ancestors who fought and gave their all in the World Wars and wars since, paying the ultimate price or surviving to be tormented by their memories. It is a tradition where we honour their brave struggle and sacrifice, and to understand the values and ideas that their legacy left behind, shaping the modern Australian nation and people. 

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