The ANZAC Legacy

Caitlin Hurley
Canberra Church of England Girls Grammar School
Australian Capital Territory

"The Story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick is one of courage, mateship, determination and sacrifice. He has come to symbolise the ANZAC spirit." How have ordinary Australians during wartime demonstrated those qualities, which are associated with the ANZAC spirit? How are these qualities still relevant to Australians today?

Throughout wartime and peace Australians have demonstrated courage, mateship, determinations and sacrifice. These qualities combined are the essence of the ANZAC spirit.

In 1993 when Australia’s Townsville-based 3rd Brigade were sent to Somalia as a peace keeping force during "Operation Solace" the young diggers and officers were asked to share their opinions about the forthcoming mission. A main point of concern was the fact that the younger generation was afraid of failing and falling short of the original ANZAC spirit, symbolised by John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his World War One heroism. Throughout the war many Australians, both male and female, demonstrated the qualities of the ANZAC spirit. These brave men and women were awarded the Victoria Cross.

One of these men was Private William Jackson of the 17th Battalion. During an Australian raid on a German trench Jackson rescued an injured comrade. In order to save his friend’s life he ran out into a storm of exploding shells. Although Jackson saved his friend’s life, he lost an arm in the process. Jackson was awarded the Victoria Cross at the age of eighteen and at the award ceremony his conduct was described as "most conspicuous bravery, which set an example of pluck and determination." Another demonstration of the ANZAC spirit was Lieutenant Albert Jacka. Because of his determination Australia’s 14th Battalion was able to capture a German Trench in Gallipoli. During this raid "Jacka", as he was known, jumped into a bunker in the trench and held several Germans hostage, but unfortunately he gained injuries himself. When his friend Ray Leane was hurt he rushed to the front and continued the attack. The Australians eventually gained control of the two nearby dressing stations where doctors fought for his life. Jacka survived a severe injury to the neck and fought at Ballecourt the following year. During World War I sixty-five Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry and courage during wartime.

As well as individual courage and determination of all individual Australians, they also fought with the same mentality. The Australians became well known for their "Do-or-die" attitude. This meant that every mission ranging from the washing of clothes to the fighting of a major battle was done with complete concentration and determination.

Even though acts of bravery took place at the front line there were also acts of bravery taking place back home in Australia. Bravery was evident in the men and women who were leading aid relief for our soldiers at the frontline. This relief ranged from clothing to food to cigarettes. There were also people who offered support to those who had lost loved ones and help to people whose houses had been ruined by warfare.

During the war there was a group of people who were rarely acknowledged for their important role during the war. This group was the nurses. The nurses worked very close to the front line and were often in danger because of the enemy and the ongoing warfare. The nurses brought your soldiers back from the brink of death and often restored their faith in life. In some cases both nurses and soldiers formed friendships that lasted a lifetime.

As the former Prime Minister P. Keating said on November the 11th at the funeral service of the unknown soldier "On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the general and the politicians, but the soldiers and sailors, and nurses, those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage…

As this extract from his speech illustrates, it was not just the leaders who showed true courage during this war, it was the soldiers who helped their injured friends escape capture and the soldiers who supported each other throughout the treacherous country sides and the living nightmares of war. The heroes were also the people who extended friendship to the injured and captured enemies and treated them justly despite what must have been a strong temptation to bring out their anger on them. This is the ANZAC Spirit at work during a horrible time.

The ANZAC spirit also means making the most of every situation no matter how horrible the conditions. During the battle of Gallipoli Australians played cricket in the firing view of the Turks. This story proves that the Australians were courageous and were not afraid of dying for their country, as well as making the most of every situation.

These qualities are still relevant today in many ways. At this moment in time Australia is embarking on the biggest military mission since the Vietnam War. During this manoeuvre Australians have demonstrated courage by going into a dangerous country to help a country which has helped us before. This is an example of friendship and mateship because it tells the story that Australia will not forget the countries that have helped us like the East Timorese helped us. This also demonstrates how Australians are prepared to sacrifice their own lives and international political and economic ties to help thousands of innocent people of East Timor. Also all the way through this mission the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, has referred to the ANZAC spirit and how we all display these qualities and he has reminded the Australian soldiers not forget these qualities.

Every day, Australians, young and old, display these qualities by helping and supporting needy and homeless Australians through organisations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The ANZAC spirit can be seen today through the willingness of Australians to help others in every situation and when they are asked to help a nation as they were in 1914, as a country they will display courage, determination, sacrifice and mateship.

The qualities of the ANZAC spirit itself are still well and truly alive eighty-five years after its creation. It can be seen that it is not just military leaders who exhibit the ANZAC spirit, but also ordinary Australians. Through the ANZAC spirit we have "gained a legend; a story of bravery and sacrifice and with it a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian".


1. Speech of the Hon P J Keating at the funeral service for the Unknown Soldier, 11.11.1993
2. Ibid
3. Ibid

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