Anzac Day is a national public holiday in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I and also to commemorate the soldiers who fought in France and Belgium. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.
Anzac Day is a day on which people also remember the efforts and sacrifices of those involved in all conflicts. Personally, among other people, I respect and honor the contribution of a man I knew: my late father-in-law Joseph Aksionov, a naturalised Australian of Russian/Yugoslav (Croatian) origin who emigrated here in the 1950’s.
During World War II, Joseph, who is a Russian national, was living in Yugoslavia. As a teenager (age 14) he joined the Yugoslav Partisans and fought on the side of the Allies against the Germans, their allies and collaborators. Joseph spent time living undercover in the forests, hiding from the Germans, and in 1988 he went back into the forests with family members, including my wife, to see the underground bunkers in which he (Joseph) and other Partisans lived and operated from. Joseph didn’t speak much about the war, however I do recall being told about how the partisans used donkeys to help them move supplies and that there was an ever-present risk that the donkeys would make a noise at the wrong time, leading to the discovery of Partisan activity by the Germans.
The first picture shows a group of Partisans and Joseph is second from the right is at the bottom. He was around 14 years of age in this photograph.
The second picture is of Joseph at the end of the war aged 17. If you look carefully you can see that he is holding a submachine gun. Someone I know, who is a former Australian Military Intelligence officer, thinks that this gun is most likely a British Sten gun. During the Second World War I believe that the British did manage to supply Partisans in Joseph’s area with some weapons and equipment.
The Yugoslav Partisans achieved significant victories against the Germans. If captured, Partisans were treated very harshly. Partisans were hunted by a variety of German units including: 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian).
The Waffen SS were an especially nasty bunch. More on the SS here.
Here is more information on the role of the SS Handschar division in Yugoslavia’s Holocaust.
During the war Joseph’s future wife Julijana and her mother Irma, along with some other family members, very nearly got executed by German patrol, who fortunately did not realize that they were a partisan family on the move. Julijana, my late mother-in-law was not only a partisan, she was a wonderful lady and left a lasting and positive impact on my wife.
Today it is very easy to forget the great sacrifices and contributions made by so many.
As in Joseph’s case, some were teenage children.
Many ‘do gooders’, peaceniks and others of a similar disposition refuse to acknowledge that at times it is necessary to use force to overcome evil.
Love protects the vulnerable and as such, the out-working of love can include the use of violence.
Another person I remember is my late step father Colonel Terry Palmer. During his military career with the British Army spanning 31 years (1948-1979), he rose from rank of private to full Colonel (Staff officer). During the Colonel’s military career, among other things, he was a member of 28 Commonwealth Brigade, and 3 Commando Brigade – Royal Marines (RM), a Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment (OC Paratroop Battalion), and also officer commanding (OC) a Special Forces / Military Intelligence (Reconnaissance) unit.
For many years, having retired from active military duty, Colonel Palmer organised the British Forces annual Airborne Forces Dinner (for officers) and counted Generals as friends. Interestingly, after retiring from the British Army, Colonel Palmer practiced Shamanism and had a public practice as a Healer in the south-west of England. Clearly a significantly talented man with a no-nonsense approach to life; he was a good example of how Shamanism is not simply for ‘softies’ and ‘New Age airheads’; rather, it is a valid and useful aspect to successful living. In fact, many special operations forces (SOF) soldiers use Shamanic techniques to survive – most do not realise they are aspects of Shamanism, though some do.
Colonel Palmer – described by a former Special Forces Warrant Officer 2 (WO2) he served with as a “Great man” – was an unsung, secret hero. An extremely brave man, Colonel Palmer achieved things concerning Special Forces and Military Intelligence I have not mentioned. By rights, he should be a ‘legend’, however his remarkable achievements are only known to a few, mostly military folk. The proverbial ‘grey man‘, Colonel Palmer’s story will probably never be told and instead, like many other Special Forces and Intelligence operators, he will recede into the mists of history and be largely forgotten.
I am grateful for the servicemen and women who defend us. Are you?
For The Fallen – Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.