The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 was an Allied attempt to reopen a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles Strait. The Turkish forces were blocking this waterway which at the time provided a sea route to Russia. Due to Australia and New Zealand's traditional alliance with Great Britain, the government of both countries immediately committed military forces to the campaign. As a result, men from all over Australia and New Zealand answered the call to service and enlisted - eager to protect the mother country and be a part of the 'Great Adventure1.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZACs as they were better known, made a significant contribution to the war effort and it is their efforts that saw the emergence of the 'Anzac Spirit'. Although these early fighters were not experienced they began what is known as the Anzac spirit - a strong bond between Australians, which originated when soldiers fought for mateship, honour and the preservation of the British Empire.
On April 25 1915, British and Anzac troops landed at several points near the top of the Gallipoli peninsular. However the Anzacs came ashore further north of their planned position, and because of wild terrain could not advance very far inland. The Turks were aware of this supposedly 'secret' arrival, and soon the Anzacs found themselves involved in trench warfare. Because of the significant casualties and the difficulty in obtaining reinforcements, an evacuation of all Anzac troops was carried out little by little, with no loss of life. This was to be the first major evacuation in military history, and was described as being a "...masterpiece of planning and organisation."'
Australian soldiers have fought in many battles over the years, but none that have left such a tradition or mark in Australias history as the Gallipoli campaign. One reason for this was that it happened only fourteen years after Federation, when Australians were beginning to consider themselves a nation, yet wondering if they would ever be worthy partners of the British Empire:
But what happened was irrelevant. The praise and the success were what mattered, for they made Australia a nation and a partner to Empire. Australians could walk among men.2
The decision to commit Australian troops to the Gallipoli campaign, particularly given the significant physical distance between the two countries, represented Australia's coming of age as a nation. For the first time, Australian soldiers were in a position to fight under their own flag as Australians rather than as part of the British army. All, in some way, contributed to the birth of the Anzac spirit.
One famous demonstration of the Anzac spirit existing in Gallipoli was through Jack Simpson and his Donkey. Simpson would lead his donkey into the middle of hectic fighting to reach a wounded soldier and bring him back, often after being warned it was too dangerous. He rescued close to fifteen soldiers a day, and in the end was killed by the enemy while bringing another to safety. Many Australians remember him because he made the ultimate sacrifice of life to help a mate in trouble.
Although the Anzac spirit originated in Gallipoli, the idea of Australians helping Australians can be seen in other wars and places they fought in. During World War Two, Australian prisoners of war were forced by Japanese officials to work in terrible conditions building the Burma Railway from Burma to Thailand, during which many men either died or fell ill. One member of this crew was an Australian doctor named Edward 'Weary' Dunlop who took it upon himself to help and look after his sick 'work mates' - just as was done by so many in Gallipoli.,
War has set strong traditions in many countries around the world, yet none as distinctive as that the Anzacs contribution to the development of our Australian identity. They were brave in battle, excelled at any given task, and were proud of their distinctiveness and their country. People looked up to them and saw them as role models and leaders, for to have been an original Anzac "...conferred forever a special distinction3. During the war fighters in almost every part of the world understood by their service what Anzac was about, and accepted it as part of the military and national tradition of this country.
April 25, the day Anzac troops landed at Gallipoli is now known as Anzac Day, and is a day of remembrance for those who died in Gallipoli, as well as proving appropriate to remember service World War Two, Korea and Vietnam and today's peace keeping forces. First observed in 1916, it has been a public holiday in all states since 1920. It is the day when people in all parts of Australia celebrate the Anzac spirit. Dawn services are held at war memorials, followed by a parade of war veterans, members of the armed services and other community groups. Often after these parades, men who served in the war reunite over lunch, "a beer" and a game of two-up, and share again the special mateship they had in the war.
The Anzac spirit is celebrated not only on Anzac day, but in many different forms in our community. Many groups such as the State Emergency Service, Volunteer Bushfires Association and Fire and Rescue are devoted to helping those in physical trouble, while the Country Women's Association offers support to those in isolated areas. Simple things such as Neighbourhood Watch, and farmers helping each other in times of natural disaster are all examples of the existence of the Anzac spirit in our society.
Despite the effort of Australians to celebrate occasions such as Australias foundation on Australia Day each year, it is Anzac Day, which remains our strongest national tradition.
Not only do the capital cities of each state have their Anzac Day services, but unlike Australia Day, nearly every country town throughout the nation has some sort of memorial service, ensuring that the Anzac spirit remains alive for many years to come.
Carrol. J. (ed) (1985) Intruders In The Bush; Melbourne: Oxford University Press
Curran. T. (1998) Not Only A Hero: An Illustrated Life Of Simpson, The Man With The
Donkey; Brisbane: GOPRINT
Krok. J. (1992) The Anzacs; Queensland: The Jacaranda Press
ANZAC Britannica CD 98 Multimedia Edition, c 1994-1997, Encyclopedia Britanica Inc.
Dardanelles Campaign Britannica CD 98 Multimedia Edition, c 1994-1997, Encyclopedia Britanica Inc.
The Gallipoli Campaign Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, c 1993 Grolier Inc.