Australian broadcaster Ray Martin writes:
I recently snapped a shot of Sydney’s iconic Anzac Bridge, with its supersized Aussie and Kiwi statues posted like armed sentinels at the western end, in the dawn’s ethereal light.
It was part of a photo essay I’m cobbling together for April 25 this special year.
The commemoration of Gallipoli — and those first, wide-eyed Anzacs who jumped ashore — is about to wash over our collective emotions, on both sides of the ditch. In 1915 our brothers died on that godforsaken Turkish peninsula at the appalling rate of 45 Anzacs a day.
But. When I focused on the high Anzac Bridge flagpole all I could see was a fluttering Union Jack. The Southern Cross — with it’s familiar Federation Star — was somehow lost in the flag’s folds.
I smiled to myself, thinking how appropriate it was — given that most of the 10,920 Anzac boys who died at Gallipoli had fought under the Union Jack.
Or, occasionally the red Australian ensign.
The mythology — and rampant misinformation — about Australians “dying under the flag” boggles the mind. It’s just not true.
For neither of the two World Wars.
And it is the silver fern which is on most of the graves at Gallipol – our effective national symbol.
In fact the silver fern was used by our soldiers in the Boer War, and was also on the medals presented to soldiers who served in that campaign.
A commenter, Greenjacket, notes:
Are you aware that the symbol of the famous NZ Division in WW1 and WW2 was a white fern on a black background? The symbol on every NZ army vehicle and on every sign to indicate the location of a NZ unit was black square with a white silver ferm emblem. In at least two operations, NZ troops were ordered to conceal their identities by concealing their white fern on a black background symbol, and NZ troops were loathe to do so as they were so proud of it, so the Germans were able to quickly identify where the crack NZ Division was moving. When NZ soldiers identified themselves, they did so with the silver fern on a black background. The NZ Army of today proudly carries on this tradition.
History Geek also has details about the long use of the Silver Fern by the military.
Meanwhile, New Zealand (whom we condescendingly pat on the head as a bit rustic and slow in all but rugby) has decided to seize ‘the one hundred year anniversary’ of Gallipoli to launch a fair-dinkum flag debate.
Unlike us, our Anzac mates have decided it’s time to grow up and become truly independent.
“We want a new flag design”, conservative Prime Minister John Key declared, “a flag that says ‘New Zealand’, in the same way that the maple leaf says ‘Canada’ or the Union Jack says ‘Britain’. Without a word being spoken.”
(Incidentally, the Canadians ditched the Union Jack in 1965.)
Quite frankly, the Kiwis are tired of being mistaken for Australia in the sporting world, with a flag “dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom”.
How refreshingly laudable is that?
It would be great indeed to have a flag that is universally recognised as representing NZ.