The Simpson Essay Competition

Nikki Macor
Wilderness School
South Australia

The events of the Korean War in 1950-53 contributed to the development of the ANZAC tradition and spirit forged at Gallipoli in 1915 in many ways. Some of these include fighting to the end and being enthusiastic and eager during times of risk. The ANZAC troops of the Third Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) exhibited these qualities, building the tradition and spirit of the ANZACs.

The ANZAC tradition and spirit that was begun by the Australian troops in Gallipoli in 1915, and continued by those in subsequent conflicts has many facets. Their sense of pride and courage, their eagerness, bravery, self-discipline, loyalty, determination and confidence are just a few. The ANZACs had an excellent sense of survival, and they were very good at making the best of any situation. They co-operated with each other and put the interest of the country and, at Gallipoli, the British Empire, before their own lives. Probably, the most famous of the ANZAC traditions and spirits is mateship. There are many stories of ANZAC soldiers through the decades who put themselves in mortal danger to save a friend, such as Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli.

One of the most recognised traits of the ANZAC spirit and tradition was that of never giving up, fighting to the end and an intense dislike of withdrawals by Australian troops. There were examples in the Korean War of all these factors in action. The Third Battalion was a very determined and brave infantry group which exhibited this spirit and tradition many times during the three years that they were in service. Major Ben O'Dowd of the Third Battalion had a first hand view of the battalion's work, and he remembered this occurrence during the battle of Kapyong, 1951. "At Kapyong, the Rifle Companies fought off wave after wave of fanatical attacks for twenty-four hours." (Gallaway, 1994:275) This shows the determination and dedication of the ANZACs. On the hatred of withdrawals, O'Dowd said: "Withdrawals are always tough on morale and discipline." (Gallaway, 1994:275) The Australians were set on fighting a battle to the bitter end, so having to carry out a withdrawal was against their well-known spirit and tradition. Captain Reg Saunders, OC C Company in the Third Battalion, recalls this reply from a nineteen-year-old Bren gunner during the withdrawal. I feel bloody awful, Skipper. It's ANZAC Day tomorrow, and we're running away from the bastards." (Gallaway, 1994:275) Captain Saunders had asked him why he had tears in his eyes. This shows the fierce pride that ANZAC troops felt about their famous bravery and the already established ANZAC tradition and spirit. Of course, the sources above may not be completely reliable, as they may be biased towards Australians. They may also be only singular occurrences and not show the full picture. They are still useful, however, for they show the strong feelings of the ANZACs.

The enthusiasm and eagerness of ANZACs in risky and dangerous situations is another well-known spirit of the men involved. They were willing to risk their lives for their mates, and they often did things for mates where they could easily have been killed. In Korea, there were many instances with which this can be proved. Wilfred Millar, an eye-witness, wrote this about Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson, when troops of 3RAR were in danger. "He demonstrated great concern for his wounded and his encircled men and had no apparent regard for his own personal safety. He exposed himself to enemy fire by getting out of the tank, speaking to the wounded, and walking among his troops as if it were just a practise drill back in Australia." (Breen, 1992:83) This display of bravery and self-sacrifice by a commander was both encouraging and inspiring for the ANZAC troops, and depicts much of the attitude that the ANZACs displayed.

This ANZAC spirit did not apply only to commanders such as Ferguson, but also to ordinary soldiers, like those of the Third Battalion's B Company, as remembered by one of their number, Lieutenant Jim Hughes. The fact that B Company was in the van [leading company for the move into the area of operations] reinforced our confidence and our enthusiasm." (Breen, 1994:16) He was speaking of Operation COMMANDO, in which the Australians played quite a major role. The troops were eager to do their duty even though they probably held one of the most hazardous positions for the operation. Both primary sources represent only a small portion of the force but they do allow us to know how deeply the belief in each other and themselves was spread among the ANZACs.

Although the ANZAC tradition and spirit is not altogether lost today, it has lost some of its meaning. As the memory of war fades with new generations, so does the national pride, and the tradition and spirit that were begun in 1915 in Gallipoli by the ANZAC troops. Australian history is not studied in schools as much as it should be, so that students are missing exposure to the bravery of the ANZACs at war. This in turn lessens the meaning of the ANZACs' many sacrifices, and even that of ANZAC Day. Until the younger generations are encouraged to understand the ANZACs, the meaning of that spirit and tradition could be further lost.

The meaning is not completely lost yet. ANZAC Day keeps the meaning of the traditions and spirit of the ANZACs alive. The pride, courage and self-sacrifice is felt each time the 25th of April comes around and many Australians rise early to attend dawn services and ANZAC Day marches. The ANZAC tradition and spirit means different things to different people, but it is still there. Never give up, have courage in yourself and your mates, and believe in this country. That is what the ANZAC tradition and spirit means to me. It applies to the everyday lives of Australians, in peace and war. This meaning may be lost to some, but for other people, including myself, the significance of the ANZAC troops' sacrifices for us is still burning strong.


Breen, B., (1992) The Battle of Kapyong, NSW: Ventura Publisher.

Breen, B., (1994) The Battle of Maryang San, NSW: Ventura Publisher.

Gallaway, J., (1994) The Last Call of the Bugle, QLD: University of Queensland Press.

Halliday, J. & Cummings, B., (1988) Korea the Unknown War, London: Penguin.

"Korean War 1950-1953 in the Australian War Memorial <> (11 Sep 1998).

Mendham, D., (1990) The ANZAC Tradition; Australia: Australia Post Philatelic Group.

Ross, J. (Editor-in-Chief), (1990) Chronicle of the 20th Century, Paris: Jaques Legrand SA International Publishing.

Simmelhaig, H. & Spenceley, G., (1984) For Australia's Sake, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson Australia.