The ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) experience forged the identity of the fledgling nation of Australia, ultimately marking its independence from colonial subservience and establishing itself as a nation in its own right. The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 represented a trial of the Anzac’s willingness and ability to uphold and defend the values for which they themselves stood – not necessarily those for which the British Empire stood. Thus, the ANZAC experience was in itself a microcosm of the developing Australian society as a whole. Australians have therefore commemorated the ANZAC experience in a number of ways. Indeed, a national day of remembrance exists to commemorate the Anzacs: April 25th, the same date as the landing on Anzac Cove in 1915. Further to this, the simple Anzac ideals of courage, camaraderie and egalitarianism are projected in the sporting arena and simply in the everyday lives and manner of Australians.
The outbreak of the First World War was greeted enthusiastically by the Sydney Morning Herald, which proclaimed "It [the war] is our baptism of fire… Australia knows something of the flames of war, but its realities have never been brought so close…". This exultation typified the wave of patriotic fervour that was to hit Australia – this loyalty, however, was directed primarily towards Britain. Phrases such as "who lives if England dies", were commonplace at the start of the war. The Gallipoli campaign, however, was to cultivate a new brand of Australian patriotism – that to its own country, and its recognition of itself as a nation with its own significant identity and character.
When the ANZACs were called upon to defend ‘Mother England’ in April 1915, they were untried, inexperienced, and generally regarded with disdain by the English who thought of them as merely ‘boys’ rather than soldiers. Due largely to an almost complete absence of preparation and planning on the part of the British Admiralty, the landing at Anzac Cove on April 25th was disastrous. Nonetheless, the Anzacs demonstrated extraordinary resilience and discipline in persisting with the fighting and sticking strictly to their previous training, whereas others would simply have panicked. It was evident that "the sacrifice made outweighed the glory won", but this only served to strengthen the resolve of the Anzacs. The ultimate symbol of putting others before oneself and camaraderie is seen in John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey. Simpson was a stretcher-bearer who used a donkey to transport the wounded, and continued to do so despite placing his own life at great risk, working through "deadly sniping down the valley and the most furious shrapnel fire." Eventually, Simpson’s sacrifice proved his downfall, but his legacy was to live on for generations yet.
Further demonstration of the Anzac’s commitment to the ideals of egalitarianism and fairness was shown after an armistice was mutually agreed upon in order to bury the dead on May 24th. Remarkably (considering the war propaganda that existed at the time), the attitude of ANZAC’s towards their enemy evolved from being one of hatred, to one of mutual respect. On May 19th (preceding the armistice), the Turks lost over ten thousand men, displaying courage and gallantry despite being in an impossible position to attack. This earned the Turks respect in the eyes of their enemy, where previously the Anzacs had earned the respect of the Turks following the doomed landing. This prompted [Australian] Sergeant A. L. de Vine to remark "The time [during the armistice] was taken up by making friends with the Turks, who do not seem to be a very bad sort of chap after all." – a testament to the prevailing spirit of egalitarianism shown by the ANZACs throughout the Gallipoli campaign. Moreover, the ANZACs came to Gallipoli as loyal subjects of the British Empire; they left with an international reputation for being good, reliable soldiers upholding the ideals of courage, camaraderie and egalitarianism, whilst promoting nationalism and independence from colonial rule.
Evidently, the most recognised celebration and remembrance of the ANZAC experience is the Anzac Day memorial on April 25th each year. Further to this, the Australian War Memorial is also a poignant and permanent reminder of the thousands of Anzacs who made the ultimate sacrifice. Both of these memorials help to ensure the perpetual continuation of the Anzac spirit – one that lives on in the everyday lives of Australians, even outside of wartime. "The Spirit of ANZAC is not confined to the battlefield." Perhaps the most appropriate example of the continuation of the Anzac spirit can be seen through the actions of firefighters at present and in recent years. The spirit of selfless sacrifice and volunteer service championed by the Anzacs is epitomised by Australia’s volunteer firefighters. As evidenced during the Black Christmas bushfires of 2001, and more recently in 2002, camaraderie and sacrifice has enabled these volunteers to continually risk their lives for the betterment of others, despite the imminent risk of death or injury to themselves. The parallels to the ANZAC experience are evident: the Anzacs too were volunteers, sacrificing themselves to ensure the sustenance of Australia’s freedom and values.
Whilst remembrance of Anzac spirit is evident in life-threatening situations such as bushfires, it also exists to a large extent in those groups which represent Australia in the sporting arena. Indeed, the lasting legacy of the Anzacs is so strong that it moved the Australian cricket team to visit Gallipoli in 2001. This experience alerted both the Australian public and the Australian cricket team to the contribution of the Anzac spirit in bringing about some of their (the cricket team’s) successes. Some of the cricketers commented on "commitment, loyalty, trust"; "the need for teamwork" and the need to "know your opposition and what they do" – thus drawing significant parallels between the ANZAC experience and the current success of Australian sporting teams. In many ways, the archetypal Australian national identity has come about largely as a result of the development of Australian culture at Gallipoli. This includes egalitarianism, mateship and an ability to make light of dire situations. Thus, even subconsciously, Australians are remembering the legacy of the Anzacs by upholding these values. Moreover, the legacy of the Anzacs is prevalent and celebrated in all features of contemporary Australian society, from the volunteer spirit, to our sporting representatives and simply the way ordinary Australians conduct themselves in day to day interaction.
The ANZAC experience served to help a young nation find its feet in the world and establish its own identity mutually exclusive from that of its colonial ‘Motherland’. The simple ideals of sacrifice, camaraderie and egalitarianism shown by the ANZAC volunteers have been instrumental in shaping Australia and its contemporary society. Remembrance of the ANZAC experience varies from conscious remembrance of their sacrifice, such as Anzac Day dawn services and marches and the existence of sites memorialising their contribution (such as the Australian War Memorial) to subconsciously demonstrating the spirit of the Anzacs – through our volunteer services, sporting representatives, and the development of the Australian identity. "Today we stand safe and free… - we owe [this] to those men who fought, endured, suffered, and died for us and for their country."
Denton, K. (1986). Gallipoli – One Long Grave. Sydney: Time-Life Books.
Gammage, B. (1990) The Broken Years. New York: Penguin Books.
Moorehead, A. (1989) Gallipoli. Sydney: Macmillan.
Waugh, S. (2001) Ashes Diary 2001. Sydney: Harper Collins.
‘Simpson and his Donkey – John Simpson Kirkpatrick.’ [Online] Available at http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/simpson.htm.
Burke, A. ‘The Spirit of ANZAC Explained’ [Online] Available at http://www.anzacday.org.au/spirit/spirit2.html.
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