Anzac Day…before the flag was hijacked

Standard bearer for the Light Horse Regiment at the Cenotaph, Sydney, 1980 © Rob Walls

Back in the days before the Australian flag was hijacked by psuedo-patriots and hypocritical xenophobes, I, along with several other photographers, took part in a black and white documentation of Anzac Day. I came to it with the standard biased left-wing, anti-war views of the day…and came away with a profound respect for the shared experience and quiet cameraderie that was demonstrated. Would I feel the same about today’s jingoistic displays at Gallipoli and elsewhere attended by flag-wrapped youth using the event to display false pride and a misplaced sense of history? I doubt it. Back then it was a commemoration, today it has become a celebration. Few take the time to think about the difference…

Veterans watching the march, Anzac Day, 1980 © Rob Walls

No sense of irony? A Naval Bass drummer wearing the skin of Australia's national icon. Anzac Day, Sydney, 1980 © Rob Walls

Colonel Bogey March sheet music, Sydney 1981 © Rob Walls

Boy wearing father;s medals at the dawn service in Martin Place, Sydney, 1981 © Rob Walls

Naval cadets from HMAS Huskisson, Anzac Day, 1981

Ghost of the Light Horse Regiment at the Dawn Service, Martin PLace, Sydney 1980 © Rob Walls

Naval bandsmen waiting for the start of the march in George Street, Sydney1980 © Rob Walls

And soon after sunrise the politicians were already at work co-opting the day with Liberal Senator Patrick Baume handing out portraits of the Queen at the dawn service breakfast, Callala Bay RSL, NSW, 1981 © Rob Walls

Writer, Bob Ellis encapsulates my feelings about Anzac Day here, Battles Lost, Minds Won.

No matter what your sentiments may be about this, “the one day of the year”, in the end it’s still all just about this…

Art deco lettering on the memorial hall at New Norfolk, Tasmania, © Rob Walls 2007


Filed under Australian, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

4 responses to “Anzac Day…before the flag was hijacked

  1. As a commemoration of friends lost, killed, maimed, and the atrocities of war, Anzac Day is a good day.

    As a day to celebrate patriotism leaning towards nationalism, it can become a dangerous day kidnapped by right-wing groups who will use it for their own misguided beliefs.

    Roel Loopers

  2. Patriotism is always dangerous, Roel. Last refuge of scoundrels, and all that. I have never been able to accept that any country has an automatic right to my loyalty, just because of an accident of birth.

  3. Great pics, Rob. Looking forward to shooting some myself today.
    As someone born in Holland and who lived and loved living in Germany for 13 years, I now feel a real closeness to Australia, after 28 years of living here. But it will never mean I will walk around with closed eyes and accept everything we are doing here. I will always be critical of the country I live in as I would like to improve it.
    Nationalism and patriotism talk about the best country in the world. Not one single country can claim that. They all got their individual beauty and strength.


    • Thanks again, Roel. Look forward to seeing what you come back with.

      As someone born in England and who loved living in Holland, I am grateful for what Australia has to offer, but reserve the right to be judgemental from a position of experience, for exactly the reasons you mention.

      As far as flag waving goes, I remember when my father, (who had served 24 years in the Royal Navy and the RAN) died, the RSL sent around a representative to offer a guard of honour and a flag to be draped on his coffin. I was astonished and delighted to hear my mother’s voice saying firmly and politely, as she shut the door in the poor man’s face, “I’m sorry, but Ken had nothing to do with the RSL when he was alive,. I’m sure he wouldn’t want anything to do with you now he is dead.” He was of the opinion that they were a bunch of jingoistic blow-hards.

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