Each year on April 25th, Australia commemorates the day when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. However, each day of our lives were are touched in some way by the legacy that they established and immortalised - the ANZAC spirit. It is the ANZACs who gave Australia her identity and it is the spirit of the ANZAC that lives in the heart of every true 'Aussie'. The ANZACs of Gallipoli - unbeknownst to them at the time - have shaped Australia into the great, free nation that it is today.
The symbol of courage during World War I to most Australians is the Gallipoli Campaign, which was a military disaster. On April 25th 1915, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) landed a mile north of their intended destination and found themselves surrounded by steep cliffs. The Turks then proceeded to attack - by nightfall 2000 ANZAC soldiers were dead. Nevertheless, the Allies had achieved an impossible task, overrunning three Turkish trenches. This terrible fighting went on for eight months until the whole offensive was finally called off and the troops evacuated. The dramatic withdrawal of the ANZACs and other allied forces has been hailed as the best-executed operation of the entire Gallipoli campaign. The ANZACs showed that they were not only brilliant soldiers, but also creative and clear thinkers. The Turks did not realise that their enemy had gone until after the very last allied soldier had departed. However, this event did nothing to ease the pain of the Australians - of the fifty thousand Australian soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, 18 235 were wounded and 8709 were killed - a devastating blow for a new country whose population in 1915 was approximately five million people.
News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians at home. April 25th rapidly became the day on which Australians reflected on the sacrifices made by those who had served their country in war. Indeed Gallipoli formed a turning point in the developing culture of Australia. ANZAC Day is still an extremely important event in our annual calendar even though over eighty-five years have passed since the ANZACs landed on the shores of Gallipoli. The moving Dawn Service and ANZAC Day March provide an opportunity for fellow Australians to show their appreciation to living ex-servicemen for contributing to Australia's freedom as well as remembering those who have passed away. This significant day is priceless as it creates a link between the older and younger generations while helping to ensure that Australia is never involved in such a terrible war again.
What rose out of the bloodshed at Gallipoli was the source of a legend that remains entwined in the Australian sense of nationhood and national character today. This newfound patriotism along with the ANZAC qualities of courage, mateship, determination and sacrifice seemed to provide inspiration to the young country. In fact, when the worst casualty figures were coming back from Gallipoli, instead of deterring Australians to enlist, more that 36 000 young men volunteered - more than the entire Army today. Ron Kyle, one of the few remaining Gallipoli veterans in 1995, reflected in retirement: "Gallipoli woke Australia up a good deal. Before then we did what were told. We were basically a colony, part of the British Empire [ ] The feeling of nationhood began with Gallipoli." It is unlikely that in 1915, there was a family in Australia that was not affected by the Gallipoli Campaign in some way.
The landing at Gallipoli was the first major military operation in which the new Australian Commonwealth was involved, as it was just fourteen years after the federation of Australia. It has been regarded by many as the 'baptism of fire' for the newly formed nation but our Australian Army volunteers who, up until then had sometimes been referred to as 'six-bob-a-day" tourists, had established the fighting reputation for which the Australian Army is renowned today. After the war, our then Prime Minister, William Morris Hughes, insisted that Australia be included in the negotiations at the Peace Conference and not come under the hat of Britain and her colonies. In response to Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States at the time, who objected to Hughes' fiercely independent stance, Hughes bluntly replied "Mr President, I speak for 60 000 dead. How many do you speak for?" America had not entered the war until 1917 and had therefore suffered light casualties so Hughes' point was taken. In doing this, Hughes flouted everything that the ANZACs stood for - especially independence and as a result, Australia was looked upon more as a country in her own right and we became a founding member of the League of Nations. Not only did Australia gain an honourable reputation for heroic soldiers; an important relationship with New Zealand was also secured. This remains extremely important to Australia's well being as without the alliance we enjoy with New Zealand, both our nations would be a great deal more vulnerable to invasion.
Through all the conflicts which Australia has fought following Gallipoli and World War I, the ANZAC spirit has shone through. Once solely a term used for those who landed at Gallipoli, 'ANZAC' is now associated with any Australian who has served or is serving with the Australian Armed Forces. From World War 2 to the current peacekeeping force in East Timor hundreds of thousands of Australians have tried to live up to the famous ANZAC Spirit - and succeeded.
It is obvious that Gallipoli was a turning point in Australia's history and has made a huge impact on our lives today. The spirit and tradition that evolved from Gallipoli is celebrated by Australians each year and has turned Australia into a unique and compassionate nation; respected throughout the world. As we, the younger generation will be the last to have lived among the few remaining Gallipoli veterans, we must bear the responsibility of carrying the torch of the ANZAC Legend to the next generation.
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