The Simpson Essay Competition

Jason Morrison
Malanda State High School

The ANZAC campaign in Gallipoli has shaped the way many Australians behold and cherish life, war and the ANZAC spirit. These events forged an immense spirit of mateship, heroism and unity as well as forming a tradition that has been carried through to present day, and will be continued indefinitely in the future. Had it not been for these events, the Australian national identity may not be as distinctive as what it is today.

At dawn on the 25 April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC, landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey at what is now known as ANZAC Cove. The troops landed two kilometres North than where planned, and thus entered Turkish territory under heavy fire. That day, the Australians lost 2000 lives, not only to gunshot wounds, but many drowned as a result of the heavy backpacks that they had to carry. This landing is the most famous operation in Australia’s relatively short military history, one of which Australia can be most proud. Over the following eight months, "….trench warfare became a way of life," (Tracey, 1990, p5) and 6000 more lives were lost. The numerous other offensive plans, one of which experienced 2000 Australian casualties, as compared to 5000 Turk casualties. The ingenuity and resourcefulness displayed by the Australians upon their withdrawal from Gallipoli led to no lives being lost, in relation to the 2000 lives lost upon landing in Gallipoli. Some contraptions invented by the Australians comprising of junk materials were; automatically firing rifles, which were used in the evacuation of Gallipoli, the "Periscope Rifle" and jam tin grenades. This ingenuity and resourcefulness of Australians influenced post-war inventions, with such Australian innovations as the "Victa" push mower and the "Hills" rotary clothesline being contrived.

The ANZACs displayed a tremendous spirit of mateship. The Australians believed, "….that no matter what should come, one’s mates should never be let down," (Haythornthwaite, 1992, p138) This spirit was carried on from the "Bush Spirit" of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, whereby one would help one’s neighbors in times of need. During the trench warfare, the soldier’s friends were often their sole source of company, inspiration and survival. If a soldier’s friend was killed, this often motivated them to fight even harder in honour of their fallen comrades (Gallipoli 1985, video cassette). Even when the ANZACs were withdrawing from Gallipoli, "…the ANZACs regretted leaving their dead mates, and many tried to be among the last to leave," (Tracey, 1990, p13).

Gallipoli was what turned many ANZACs into "real men". The courage shown by every member of the ANZAC will remain unmatched because the ANZACs carried out their duties, despite any consequences to themselves. Oliver Hogue quoted Colonel McCay of the second Brigade at Gallipoli saying, "The way, cheerful, splendid way, they face death and pain is simply glorious…..I said in effect, ‘Come and die,’ and they came with a cheer and a laugh," (Haythornthwaite, 1992, p133). One such example of heroism was John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the ‘Man with the Donkey". "Simpson carried his wounded comrades down…to the beach on a donkey, regardless of any danger to himself," (Tracey, 1990, p13). Tragically, he was killed by machine gun fire after only a few months, but his legend still remains through statues and plaques and books. Australians are proud of the heroism and courage displayed by not only Simpson but by all ANZACs.

The Australians, in particular, gained a national identity from the ANZAC experience. The Gallipoli Campaign was the first conflict in which the Australians had fought as Australians whereas, before Federation, the people from Australia had fought as the colonies of Britain. One digger stated, "we went as New South Welshmen, Queenslanders and South Australians, but we came back as Australians." The British, "…. criticised them for a lack of conventional discipline and respect for authority, but none questioned their indomitable spirit," (Haythornthwaite, 1992, p 133). Charlie Bean, the Australian Official Historian, believed the word "ANZAC" represented, "…reckless heroism, enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity and mateship," (Haythornthwaite, 1992, pg133) Their, ‘"devil-may-care," (Everett, 1982, pg58) attitude, however, also interrupted quite serious events. One of which was an occasion when Mustafa Kemal (later renamed Ataturk) and two Australian Generals were meeting in a dug-out at ANZAC Cove to discuss a truce in order to bury the dead and enable the survivors a chance to recover. An Australian soldier walked in on the negotiations and enquired, "have you bastards got my kettle’ (Everett, 1982, p58)? The high spirits kept by the ANZAC during Gallipoli, making the most of the bad situation is also evident today, with the high-spirited way which people endure such disasters as droughts, floods and fires.

Australians still commemorate and practise the ANZAC Spirit. Every year on 25 April, millions of Australians pay their respects to the men who made the ‘ultimate sacrifice". Australians take great pride in the bravery and spirit of the ANZACs because of the publicity given to this campaign. Sadly, no World War One ANZAC veterans remain alive, but the ANZAC spirit and tradition has not died with them. Competitions, books and movies aid the survival of the ANZAC spirit. In the works of General PC Grafton, Chief of the Defence Force, "We all know that…our soldiers and their comrades from New Zealand rose to great heights, providing an enduring example for their countrymen. We all know that through their sacrifice and courage, the spirit of the ANZAC is embedded deeply in our national ethos". (Tracey, 1990, p1)

It can be concluded that the events at Gallipoli have shaped the ideals associated with the ANZAC spirit and the way many people view life and war. The events gave Australia a national identity and a common sense of mateship and heroism that have been exercised and honored from the very first ANZAC day in 1915, until now and will continue well into the future through publications and memorials. Had it not been for the ANZAC, the national pride in Australia may not be quite as strong as what it is currently.


Conroy, Jeff (1993), Time Quest, Jacaranda Wiles, Milton, Qld..

Everett, Susan (1982), The Two World Wars, Bison Books, Greenwhich, USA.

Haythornthwaite, Phillip (1992), World War One Source Book, Arms and Armour Publishing, London.

Tracey, Michael (1990), The Spirit of ANZAC, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Weir, Peter (1985), Gallipoli (video cassette), Roadshow Home Video.