The influence of war remains etched on our hearts and minds. While for some they can recall the Grandfather’s commitment to protecting Australian soil all those years previous; for others they remember defence force personnel who epitomised sacrifice and selflessness.
ANZAC Day commemorations are part and parcel of the Australian and New Zealand calendars. It would feel offensive not to stop and give thanks. It would feel dishonourable not to deeply acknowledge the blood, sweat and tears of generations marred by the scourge of war.
In the midst of reciting the ode and praying aloud The Lord’s Prayer, we remember. We remember the diggers. We remember the air force. We remember the front line personnel. We remember the paratroopers. We remember the nurses. We remember the bureaucrats tasked with decisions far greater than anything we would ever need to decide.
We remember their bravery.
We remember their sacrifice.
And we remember their stories.
And one such story is…
One such story is a man named William McKenzie. I personally am inspired by the story of the one who became called ‘Fighting Mac.’ In WWI he was sent as a chaplain straight into the line of fire. Conducting funerals with gunfire overhead and caring for the troops in the ditches became his modus operandi.
William McKenzie was sent by The Salvation Army into the frontlines. The military appointed him as a chaplain with the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1stDivision of the Australian Imperial Force. There he began his frontline service on a beach in Turkey, we name famously know as Gallipoli.
In the past The Salvation Army have been known for pulling out the tea leaves during times of war; a cuppa tea and chat was always on the cards. With a pot of hot water, and a listening ear, the Salvos were there to listen and care.
For William McKenzie, the work was intense. This wasn’t just about tea and biscuits, as helpful as that would’ve been. This was about serving the troops in the midst of life-threatening warfare.
On one three-day period during intense warfare, McKenzie conducted 647 funeralsand realised afterwards he had three bullet holes in his hat.
Journalist Keith Murdock, after interviewing McKenzie, wrote this, “Padre McKenzie has gone where shelling has made burial parties impossible to bury the dead. He has brought in the wounded, and lasted out the most intense shell-fire with his men, so that he might cheer them and comfort them. He has stayed afterwards to collect as much as two sandbags full of identity discs and pay books off the dead.”
Even after WWI King George V wrote a letter to General Bramwell Booth (the then international leader of The Salvation Army) and said, ‘By its love, work and mercy, in both peace and war, the Salvation Army has become honoured and endeared in the hearts of the nations of the world.’
Such was the work of people like William McKenzie.
The ANZAC spirit
William McKenzie became a well-known figure post WWI. Thousands of people flocked to Melbourne’s Exhibition Centre on his arrival back into Australia. They wanted to hear the exploits. They wanted to celebrate one life, among many, of sacrifice and determination.
And I think I know why people were drawn to him.
He encapsulated the ethos of the ANZAC spirit. He personified the ideals of a caring person within the tragedy of war.
It’s the ANZAC Spirit. It’s the kind of outlook in life that says:
You don’t give up on your mate. You don’t leave him in a ditch. You go above and beyond, even if it means paying the ultimate sacrifice. You help the Aussie battler. You get in there, get your hands dirty and make a difference.
It’s the kind of spirit we need today: A little less vitriol on our twitter feeds, and more determination to help the poor; A little less of tearing each other down and a little more of bringing out the best in others.
It’s the way of Jesus: laying down your life for others.“This is how we know what real love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, therefore we should lay day our lives for our brothers and sisters”(1 John chapter 3, verse 16).
It’s the way of the Aussie people. Lay down your life for others. Lift up those less fortunate than you. Do what you can to get their feet back on solid ground.
They’re the stories we don’t forget, because the service of the ANZACS will never be in vain.
Lest we forget.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at http://www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html