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An Anzac Diary is a short tone poem in three movements, stimulated in part by the diary entries of a kiwi ANZAC soldier, George Bollinger, as he experienced the events at Gallipoli in April 1915.
The first movement, Anticipation, is optimistic in tone, not as a celebration of war from the point of view of hindsight, but as a rendering of what Bollinger was feeling on April 25, 1915, the day before landing at Gallipoli. He wrote:
"The day is beautifully fine. We are steaming full speed, close to the southern shores of Gallipoli. What a day of days!...we are within a very few miles of our warships and transports...What a sight! Their big guns never cease, and as we see the flash and burst of the shells on land, we think thousands of Turks must be going under. Has ever a bombardment like this taken place before?"
The second part of the first movement reflects another aspect of the mood that day:
"Our men are very calm, and some are even lying about reading and taking no notice of the bombardment. Boom, boom, boom. It never ceases."
The second and longest movement, Battle, starts with an evocation of the landing at Gallipoli on April 26:
"3.15 am. 'Packs on' was roared out. Torpedo destroyers are alongside to take us ashore. 9.40 am. On shore in the thick of it...Stray bullets were landing around us and suddenly Private Tohill who was standing just in front of me dropped with a bullet through his shoulder. Immediately after, Private Swayne was shot in the forehead... In landing as many as 49 were killed in one boat and a whole regiment was practically wiped out."
The music then becomes more mournful, haunting and reflective, pondering statements like:
"We saw some awful sights...as we got under heights we met crowds of wounded coming down. Oh how callous one gets...No sleep and nothing to eat, just a craving for drink, and the wounded always empty our bottles."
The second movement closes with another flurry of battle evoking experiences such as this one of April 27:
"On we rushed against a rain of bullets and our men began to drop over, before they fired a shot...Our men were dropping in hundreds."
If the first and second movements reflect Bollinger's evolving perceptions and experiences of war in his days at Gallipoli, the final movement, Remembrance, is more of a musical salute to all of the ANZACS, in solemn recognition of their sacrifice, years later. It is a salute to honour the fallen rather than to glorify or condone war itself. It aims to capture the tone of highly formal, yet emotionally charged reflection of a modern New Zealander reflecting at an ANZAC Day service.
– Ewan Clark