St. George and ANZACs

Before he was dismissed from the official list of saints, George was the patron of Greece and of soldiers. He was very popular in England. Officially his feast day is April 23, but it is observed this year on April 25, which is also ANZAC Day in Australia. It is a fitting pairing.

The “official” story about George is that he was the son of a Roman officer, and so became a soldier himself (as the law required. Martin of Tours [and of Pannonia] had to join the military even though he didn’t want to, because that was dad’s employment.) He became a Christian, refused to return to paganism, and was executed during the persecutions by Diocletian. The unofficial story involves slaying a dragon [devil] that preyed on the young woman of Silene in Libya. George did in the dragon, converted the town’s grateful residents to Christianity, and then the story either ends, or gets really off beat. I’ve only heard/seen the off-beat version once. Let’s just say that even the medieval Catholic Church expressed some qualms about George really being killed three times and coming back twice.

George is the patron saint of England and Catalonia. He is recognized and still venerated in the Orthodox Church, and is the patron of Ethiopia, Georgia, and the city of Moscow.

St. George by Raphael.

Then there’s a somewhat later and certainly more florid St. George.

Peter Paul Rubens. St. George. Public Domain, at the Museo del Prado, Spain.

ANZAC Day is the day set aside in Australia and New Zealand, and wherever Australian and New Zealander military forces are currently serving, to remember the dead of all the wars. The ANZACs tended to hit well above their weight class, and the mildest, most soft-spoken Kiwi can turn into a ferocious warrior when need arises.

Gurkhas honoring another group of warriors. The two often fought side-by-side. The image is from Gurhka Association website.

April 25, 1915, marked the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. They would also fight in South Africa, New Guinea, France, Burma, Korea, Vietnam, and wherever needed. The Australian Military History museum in Canberra was eye-opening, to put it mildly, for a Yank who had very little clue about the huge contributions Australians (and New Zealanders) made in the wars. Or the enormous price those countries paid for that effort.


8 thoughts on “St. George and ANZACs

  1. My father and his helicopter were stationed on an Australian aircraft carrier for S&R during the Korean War. He learned to drink tea with “canned cow” and how not to sleep in a hammock. The other chiefs were very welcoming to the Yank, and gave him a top-tier hammock, the warmest place in the compartment. After the second time Dad fell out, dumping everyone under hum, they found Dad a cot!

  2. Was poking around– trying to double-check my memory, that while St. George is still recognized as a saint, we basically go “we have no idea about most of his details,” just like St. Christopher– and found this:

    Delehaye rightly points out that the earliest narrative known to us, even though fragments of it may be read in a palimpsest of the fifth century, is full beyond belief of extravagances and of quite incredible marvels. Three times is George put to death—chopped into small pieces, buried deep in the earth and consumed by fire—but each time he is resuscitated by the power of God. Besides this we have dead men brought to life to be baptized, wholesale conversions, including that of “the Empress Alexandra”, armies and idols destroyed instantaneously, beams of timber suddenly bursting into leaf, and finally milk flowing instead of blood from the martyr’s severed head.

    It then takes a few more paragraphs to say “yeah, there’s stories that are less, uh, obviously embellished, but we’re pretty sure they are sanitized versions of this earliest one we’ve got, not the original that was embroidered on.”

    But it also has sources if someone wants to go digging to see what new stuff has been found in the last century!

    • But but… It wouldn’t have been written down if it wasn’t true!!!! [Crazy Grin]

      I suspect that plenty really believed that if something was written down, then it had to be True.

      Just like the current theme of “I saw it on the internet so it must be true”. 😉

  3. Thank you for recognising the ANZAC contribution on this most special day for us.

  4. You may be interested to read Banjo Patterson’s “Ballad of Ginger Mick”, if you can find them – they give a different view of the Gallipoli campaign. There is also a very interesting documentary on Youtube about ANZAC General John Monash >>, and his experiences, and how that led to a change in how wars from then on would be fought.

Comments are closed.