"The ANZAC spirit was born at Gallipoli in 1915. Since then it has been demonstrated not only by Australians in war but also by those whose contribution has been in other fields."
There are many answers to the question "What is the ANZAC spirit?". Most of them are as different to the next as they are correct. Is the ANZAC spirit a group of Australian athletes competing in lycra, in Japan? Being paid thousands of dollars? Or is it Charles E.W. Bean’s view, (the Official War historian), who believes the spirit is to have ‘stood and still stand for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and an endurance that will never own defeat.’?
For many years my family and myself have attended the ANZAC day celebrations, starting with the dawn service, continuing to the parade and ending with a special lunch. While the ex-service men decline in numbers, due to death, there are more and more children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren marching in their place. They proudly march displaying medals or banners of their loved ones who fought in not only World War One but any war Australians have been involved in.
Before the early 1900’s Australia was settled by many British/European people. These people considered themselves visitors still maintaining that Britain and various other European countries were their ‘homelands’, even though many had never set foot out of Australia. Australia was also thought of as a young and naive country, looking for adventure and fun. However somewhere between 1914 and 1918 Australia became an older and wiser nation. Australians no longer thought of themselves as separate people from separate backgrounds. They were now united as Australians.
I believe the spirit was always in Australians. From way before World War One, before even the Boar War. But it was the first World War that kindled the spirit and let the whole world know that while Australians may appear laid back and were renowned for our sense of humour we were as tough as nails when it came to armed conflict and we could defend ourselves and/or our mates. Take Albert Jacka he was born a Victorian but went to war an Australian. He enlisted in September 1914 and(after a few document troubles) was sent to Gallipoli in December that same year.
During May 1915 Albert Jacka and four other ANZAC soldiers were defending a section of a trench, when seven Turkish soldiers attacked. Jacka, even though his four mates had been killed, fought on against the odds and killed all seven Turkish soldiers. This act of bravery and courage earned Albert Jacka Australia’s first Victorian Cross for the war. Twice, later in the war, he was awarded the Military Cross. This is another high military honour. He received these awards for not hesitating to take risky actions in battle to save himself and primarily, to save others.
Another man who showed the ANZAC spirit was John Simpson Kirkpatrick. He was originally an English merchant seaman who, in 1910, jumped ship at Newcastle in New South Wales. When war broke out in 1914 he joined the Australian Army under the name Jack Simpson and was part of the first Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) landing at Gallipoli. In 1915 he found a donkey in a deserted shack and for almost a month he braved gunfire, shrapnel assaults and numerous Turkish raids, with his donkey, to rescue wounded and ill soldiers from the trenches.
He carried the injured and sick down to the beach where they were attended to by Red Cross workers or transported to a hospital ship. However on the 19th of May 1915 John Simpson’s luck ran out and he was killed by Turkish machine gun fire. In later years John Simpson Kirkpatrick became and still is a symbol of the ANZAC’s fearlessness and compassion for fellow companions.
Obviously not all Australians who first showed the ANZAC spirit were men. Grace Wilson was born 1879 - 1957 and when war broke out she was already a trained nurse. Therefore in 1914 she enlisted in the Australian Nursing service. In 1915 she went to the Greek island of Lemnos where she founded an Australian General Hospital. At the hospital Matron Grace Wilson and her staff of ninety-six Australian Army nurses worked in a tent city to treat wounded ANZAC soldiers. Grace Wilson described in her diary the inefficiency, limited medical supplies, lack of adequate equipment and poor working conditions.
However Matron Grace Wilson battled on. During the next three years she set up hospitals in Egypt, France and England. Grace Wilson, to me, is a true Australian hero who never stopped trying despite the pain and sadness, she wrote about in her diary, from seeing so many ANZAC soldiers die.
Luckily Australia hasn’t been at war with anyone in recent years. Instead, Australians have been Peace Keepers in East Timor. My family’s next-door nieghbour was a Peace Keeper in the year 2000. When he came back, after the East Timorese vote for independence, he said that he was glad that the Australians were helping "Our new little sister country." Also he proudly stated that "The East Timorese helped us in World War Two, now we are helping them."
I agree with this view. This is the true ANZAC spirit. When people help others, no matter which culture and/or land/s they come from, never expecting anything in return and without any personal gains to be made. I believe once the spirit was kindled it was and still is passed on from generation to generation. Never growing dimmer but ever stronger and stronger. To me this is why we will never forget. Lest we forget.
Albert Jacka - www.anzacday.org.au/ 1998
John Kirkpatrick Simpson - www.anzachouse.com/simpson.shtml 17 September 1999
James Mason (next door neighbour) - personal conversation
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