"That is surely at the heart of the ANZAC story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity."
Former Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Mr Paul Keating, at the Entombment of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial 1993
The ANZAC experience, in which our soldiers lived and died under horrible conditions, in a land far from home, changed the way we are. If it wasn't for Gallipoli, Australia may not be the nation it is today. We would not have the history of great deeds and marvellous characters we have today, or the competitive nature that leaves us with the will to win, that we are internationally renowned.
Gallipoli is seen as a defeat. A huge military blunder, due to poor organisation, communication and leadership. And yet, eighty-five years on from that fateful day when the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli, Australia celebrates this event as one.
To many, ANZAC Day is generally associated with the landing at Gallipoli, and nothing else. Yet if Australians dug deeper, they may find that April 25th, 1915 is more than it seems.
This date is seen by many people as one that marked Australia's coming of age. As the first time Australia had fought a war since becoming a federation in 1901, it is established that Gallipoli, or more pointedly, the ANZAC experience, is seen to have changed Australia.
For the soldiers, to fight united with their close neighbours, the Kiwis from across the Tasman, was a celebrated experience. When before, these brilliant fighting men were established as being "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps" they now are known as simply "ANZAC".
The ANZAC experience is seen to have also changed the way that Australia is now. Through Gallipoli, Australia now has a brilliant fighting spirit, and a competitiveness and will to win that has us universally known as not having defeat in our vocabulary. These qualities, and many others, were always inside us, but Gallipoli saw them rise to the surface. This was brought about by the hardships suffered by the soldiers at Gallipoli, when, after landing, they faced huge cliffs and had to fight over unknown territory, with little training and against a mass of defending Turks, who were going to defend their country to the bitter end.
Another great Aussie characteristic to emerge from Gallipoli was the fact that our soldiers are some of the finest, most courageous to be seen. The ANZAC experience brought out the best of the Aussie. Even when faced with the most horrible conditions, the ANZACs at Gallipoli still possessed a humour not thought possible under the circumstances. These things were again displayed by the soldiers in every war, peace-keeping mission, etc, where Aussies are 'sent through hell and back' and have survived.
The ANZAC experience showed the world that we can 'cut it with the big guns.'
Last of all, the greatest emergence from Gallipoli was the way in which the soldiers possessed such qualities as courage ingenuity and mateship. It established that they had a unique ability to live and thrive in any condition. This quality is still evident today in such situations today as those which Stuart Diver faced when trapped under debris in the "Thredbo disaster" or, more recently, Stuart Page, who survived three days in the snow blizzard on Mount Hotham.
C.E.W. Bean, Australia's official war correspondent at Gallipoli, wrote "What motives sustained them (the ANZACs)? At the end of the second or third day of the landing when half of each battalion had been annihilated, when the dead lay three deep in the rifle pits under the blue sky? What was it then that carried each man on? It lay in the mettle of the men themselves."
So, Australian soldiers were not angels. In fact, the British often found them to be disrespectful and undisciplined, for the soldiers loathed being pushed around too much, and laughed at other Army's ways, such as the British Army full dress parade of the guard mounting at Strazeele, Belgium.
"We are the ragtime army
We cannot shoot, we won't salute
What bloody use are we?
(Sung by the battle weary ANZACs after leaving Gallipoli)
Yet when the ANZACs were on the battlefield, they fought like no-one had ever seen before.
Gallipoli was a defeat. But so what? It marked the emergence of the ANZACs and most importantly, Australia.
As again written by C.E.W. Bean "Through the expeditionary forces of the two Dominions were only in their infancy, and afterwards fought with success in greater and more costly battles, no campaign has more identified them as this. In no unreal sense it was on 25th April 1915 that the consciousness of Australian nationhood was born."
They shall grow not old
as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.
LEST WE FORGET"
Bean, C.E.W. The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918.
University of Queensland Press *No date or place of publication listed.
Denton, K. (1986) Gallipoli - One Long Grave. North Sydney, Time-Life Books Pty Ltd.
Livesey, A. (1989) Great Battles of World War 1. London, Guild Publishing.
Laffin, J. (1999) Gallipoli. East Roseville, Kangaroo Press.
Merrit, c & O'Brien, C. (1991) 1914-1918 - The World At War. Port Melbourne, Heinemann Educational Australia.
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